Fenix in a styling mask

When we came back from the Gulf Coast we had no idea we were racing an infectious wave up the East coast. We did everything wrong, we hugged people we ate at dives, we used road stops and sketchy gas stations and clambered into overcrowded vehicles with little air circulation.

Well our guardian angel or whatever you believe got us all home safely and a week later we were all working remotely and scrambling to put together some sense of continuity. From sun, cheering crowds and rubbing elbows to masks, physical distance and hunkering down in our homes.

And then the cancellations began, and the Rennie community will tell you it was heartbreaking. And all the costumed/kitted communities will tell you the same.  Online is not the same as real life-especially when you have a business/hobby that involves participation in a time before cell phones and computers.

Some faires went online like the New Hampshire Renaissance Faire. We were scheduled to perform there for the first time and then BAM cancelled.   But they/we rallied and did an online faire!

As the strictures eased we thought we might to another event but as you know, the numbers of infected are not good.

Our state clamped down and down at least we can attend outdoor events (some) eat in restaurants and will have a major sporting event this Sunday (no audience mind you)

Other states were not so restrictive and some dear friends caught COVID. (recovering, thank goodness)   And although we were invited  to perform in one of those states we regretfully had to turn it down. It is going to be a “drive through” (in a carriage) faire and sounds like a blast but the travel would have forced quarantine and none of us can afford that financially, personally and emotionally.

A couple of us had been doing weekend trips to a nearby (and cleared) state from our hermitage to our friend’s hermitage and enjoying some time extensively outside.  That state was able to ease restrictions and had been having outdoor farmers’ markets and other events for a few weeks already.   One faire continued to stay on the schedule. It was a tiny faire, run by a fraternal group we wondered if it was going to happen. Six weeks out we asked the troupe members if they felt comfortable participating.  We agreed that we’d be good with working together and making it happen. 

We were oh-so careful and had troupe masks made.  We had hand sanitizer, additional paper masks, and a fight protocol on only fighting in “family groups” and we cut out any grappling and touches that fell outside of that scope.  And we weren’t scheduled so we could work in small bursts. And since our acts are swords and fire, we had social distancing built in

When we hit the faire it was A LOT of space for relatively few people. Won’t lie, because we tried not to travel anywhere in the faire we felt a bit like a zoo exhibit.  A lot of folks didn’t make it in at 10:00am as they were taking temps and checking masks at the gate. People were polite and respectful. Saturday was a very long day (there at 8:00am-left at 9:45-ish pm) and Sunday was quiet enough that the faire packed up early.

Do I think that we can do socially distanced faires? Yes if they are small and everyone follows the social contract of mutual respect. Are we doing the faire in AL? No. Does it look good for FL in March? Not really which makes us quite sad. We have to travel through states that are still in denial about a national pandemic and frankly, I love doing faires but when I don’t feel like they are on the same page with safety that we are, I have no interest in risking our staff for that.

Let all hope Dr. Fauci is correct about a vaccine in the works!



person-posing-near-body-of-water-3050912Photo by Vitória Santos from Pexels

On the Phoenix Swords Facebook, I posted an “are you okay?” meme for the folks I know.  And someone who has performed with us and has their own act now commented that they were doing okay. And for the most part that seems to be true

I am taking cues from Guy Windsor, Jess Finley, D’Mon Stith by looking at manuals to improve our historical show.

I have been picking up online skills like a crazy person. We have permission to use our workplace media connection and I am taking full advantage of it to contact family and friends with the bells and whistles. I am taking courses and working full time. (Don’t ask about housework)


The troupe has reassured me that I am not wasting their time with online meetings and that it helps to be connected.

We are even participating in an online fundraiser for the New Hampshire Renfaire:

But it’s hard to be productive all the time and we still have bills to pay. We pay for storage and practice space and we are NOT practicing. Two performers will not be able to join us for wildly varying reasons-one because his job is trying to keep safe so he cannot attend or participate in any public performances for a set time. The other works in a high-risk group and does not want to bring sickness to us. He calls himself ‘the canary in the coal mine.’

In New England, we only have about four good months and people are itching to get out into them.  And you can’t practice fire in the house. (well you can but it’s a bad idea)  Just like everyone else, I HAVE THINGS TO DO.

I get it, we all do. I love my day job but will I have it in a month? My family, many are elderly-will I see them through 2020? One senior describes her role as “inmate” because she cannot leave her apartment for any reason and food is all but slid under the door.  I am grateful to be mobile and able to go outside.

And this “new normal” has brought out the serious mental imbalances in some of my friends. I hope that they survive physically, mentally, and spiritually. Praying for them every day.

I have nostalgia already for close contact performances. It’s going to impact our shows-can we still fight and “bag” our falchion fighters?  Take audience participation?  What about our spotters and fire breathers?  I’m trying to figure out how to do the human connection hands-free. Better work on those charisma skills!

Keep your fingers crossed for Fall faires, my friends. I am rubbing my rabbit’s foot like a sander and hoping the best for everyone, and that includes you.

flower crown


The answer is yes-unless they don’t, and that’s the reality.

But one thing I like to think that those who support faires have in common is resiliency

We deal with bad patrons, low wages, varying weather, strange circumstances and plowing through despite obstacles. I don’t think this virus will kill renaissance faires but it will change them for years to come.

If you are like me, you knew you were a faire addict but you thought you could quit at any time.  You realize at this point that isn’t true.  But we all have coping mechanisms.

I am enjoying the group Faire Relief

That is helping me discover all sorts of new vendors and reminding me that I need to buy a Clipclock for the next performance!

My friends who are performers are doing concerts via Facebook Live

Becoming Tik-Tok celebrities

Digital Renfaire  is taking performances online and it’s happening weekly-no flies, no bad weather and no entrance fee (but please use the tip jar)

And RESCU is doing what it was built for-helping Rennies in need.

And look-people who support renfaires are adapting and even opening up new markets and ideas.  And that’s why the California Pleasure faire didn’t just run a season and call it good. People are what make it a great experience and people are what will keep it going.

As for my own experience, in some ways this stress and fear and not being around others is clamping down on my mental and physical health.  My Day Job (for which I am grateful) had a big surge in need and when I would walk away way from the computer I was DRAINED.   No crafting, no working on our acts, no equipment checks or repairs I just wanted to sink into the floor and not be any more. All of us are out of sorts.

But I’m taking heart from the people around me. I am so grateful to feel the love and connection from my friends and family (and yeah, EVERYONE is home, no excuses!). It’s not the same as flopping down behind a tent and shooting the breeze or letting it all hang out onstage but it’s still a community.

So if you can’t zoom, call. If you can’t call, write. And if you can’t write, get right with your deity of choice, or yourself and your place in the Universe or if you need to-teleheath and see/contact someone.  Please do what you need to do!

And when we do get to be out there again, the energy will be AMAZING. Sure, it will probably be elbow bumps rather than big hugs but the love is there.

We will be at the faires again! HUZZAH!

Leaping right in today with some suggestions on sharing the performer-spherekindness-clipart-good-neighbour-3

Gif from https://webstockreview.net

Know where the bathroom, security, and first aid are BEFORE the gate opens.  Have you ever been mistaken for the employee of a supermarket? Did it confuse you and the person who asked? This happens all the time at the renaissance faire. Costumed people are employees to visitors. Don’t expect the people coming through the gate to know the difference, and reacting badly will not do anyone any favors. If you don’t know, politely excuse yourself or direct them to someone you know will have the answer. I find it’s easier just to know this information

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Chidi Peeps Chili

I guess this counts as the disclaimer paragraph when I say that our performance group is its own animal. We use both HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) techniques and SAFD (Society of American Fight Directors) with caution and mix them as best we can for stage acts. When I speak about some bad things it will be about some specific incidents and I don’t want to invoke #NotAllSwordfighters. So if we can all keep our righteous indignation on low flame, you’ll get through this opinion piece.  I’m going to talk about the sword users that work well and work poorly with having a performance sword fighting troupe.

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For years the troupe has teased me about my “freak magnet” to be fair, playing with swords and fire isn’t going to generally attract the median of American society.  I’ve worked retail, foodservice and in non-profits and it’s safe to say, I’ve dealt with a lot of people.  For those of you entering Renfaire world, or just want to laugh along at home-here are my thoughts on patron interaction.


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So many of my posts are rants or commentary I’m going to try something new. A positive post-so hang onto your toques and let’s go!



Personnel: We lost SO MANY troupe members to babies but some of the older ones are coming back and some of the newer ones made it a family affair.  We have two teenagers who are doing active fights, one of which is doing historical in addition.  It’s been nice to have calm, settled people who can learn routines, understand how you offer to help and been graciously received extra hands. It’s been a while since we’ve had multiple folks who can set up a fire show or who can just set up and stake down the tenet with minimal instruction-even our “guest stars.” And it’s nice to have the same faces come again and again so when the troupe leaders have to deal with emergencies, stuff still makes it to the site and to the car.

Which leads me to

Teamwork: I hadn’t realized how much we took for granted until last March when our area had a tornado and storm come roaring through.  When a faire organizer says “Pack up, we’ve got a tornado.” No-one stopped to ask about that in the green skies-we just MOVED.  In the words of Ian (one of our members)
“You guys were like cockroaches when someone turned on the light, it was movement everywhere!” (Pic courtesy of Wynne Clark)

When we slid the last troupe item into the van (and several members went out to help vendors) then, the torrential rain came. It was so hard and heavy that it trapped people at the faire and it was us, a belly dance troupe and the jousters left behind. We still put on a show for the equally trapped patrons. We slid under the one open building, took out only the BIG fire toys and we did our thing.  To paraphrase Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton, “PS gets things done.”

Energy:  As my energy wanes and we all get older, a big proponent of work smarter, not harder.  We set the challenge to the troupe that if they wanted new material-they had to develop it.  One member had created a new Giganti demonstration (short but growing.)  While on vacation we came across a Dutch fighting manual that had some funny bits (also now in the show) and we are bringing back a halberd section that we haven’t been able to sustain for a few years.  And we have the kids, one of whom has gotten tall enough in two years that part of a fight sequence had to change as he is too tall to “dangle” any more.

Wabi-sabi:  Not all of us can do all things at all times. Members and guest stars of the troupe have limitations and so, we strive to make use of their best skills.  A founding member, Valkyrie, came back with some new faces for a one-off in NH this year. She isn’t up to fights but took photos, organized things and help act as an extra set of eyes. Another member has had enough issues that we call her “Woman of Glass.”   She is working on another set of fire skills.  She made an impact when we did a recent event as her bits were small, showy and gave us transition between acts-giving the illusion of seamlessness in a fire show.  She will talk to anyone which, in a troupe of introverts and ambiverts is handy! I move a lot slower than I used to so now, it’s important to streamline the things I have the energy to do and let people help.

Teamwork: I’m probably jinxing us here but the teamwork has been a lifesaver. It’s been our ideal to have a 360-degree view of what we do and for people to help us shore up weaknesses.  If you’ve been to a show you’ll notice that we kick the hams to the front while the others clear the stage. If we are doing a fight we may notice the younger members dart out and grab finished/discarded weapons.  You might realize there are people near the tent prepping the next weapon for a sequence in our historical show. And for a recent “Silly Pirate Show” which we only do for Mobile and are less-staffed, we let members design their sequence of the performance.  It makes a nice mismatch of acting/engagement styles for the crowd and the troupe and it’s okay that it’s not without flaws but it is personal and funny. And not everyone has to be all things for four shows a day.


In General: I could say a million things many ways to all the members. We try to shoot that compliment gun often and early and sometimes we can catch it, sometimes not.   But I’m grateful we are where we are right now and wanted to express it.



Thank you for what you did for the New England Renaissance Faires

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toilet paper roll

It takes a lot of work to stick around the renaissance faire community and I smile when I see us persevere another year. Now we have new faces we hope will take over our more active work and we still like to perform even if it means more coffee and Advil as we advance forward.

Here’s advice from a doddering old performer:
Don’t be a douchebag to the new acts, other parts of the ren community and new rennies.

You’d think I wouldn’t have to say that but clearly, someone has to keep saying it because it’s like the people who work at events with a nod to history, don’t even read it themselves!


We are competing with other events, more media, LARPS, Amusement parks, HEMA clubs, reenactors and more so it pays to be a little more understanding when someone visits/works the renfaire.

New Playtrons: Please don’t bite and sit like a frigging horsefly on the new visitors. You are not entitled to their blood and attention and you are not the official renfaire gatekeeper. Let them yell “Huzzah,”  dress in a peasant shirt and jeans and eat their damn turkey leg.  If they want to play, fine but don’t be rooting like an anteater into their personal space and being lewd, JUST DON’T.

New Rennie acts: If they ask for a critique, be gentle. You didn’t spring fully formed from the head of Phyllis Patterson  with a killer act so remember your own struggles. So lift them up, announce their acts, offer what you can and remember-you can still learn something. The new folks have a new perspective and they might help you freshen up YOUR act.

Don’t haunt the vendors like the ghost of renfaires past.  They need to move product and make that sweet cash to come back and help finance the event where you are currently working.  They can spend less on costuming and have considerably more setup.  If you want to, offer a hand. They are an amazing resource if you are overheated, under hydrated or just to chat.  You can direct people to them and make their booth look attractive to patrons.  I’ve been known to saunter over in costume and give a well placed “How wonderful!l”  They are part of your renfaire ecosystem and you, like the brine shrimp, are another part of the biome.  And don’t beg for discounts.

Your competitors. I know, I know, you are looking over one another and it’s like working toward a championship.  Eventually some never come back, that someone could be you. But you owe at least polite civility to one another. We make it a point to have our folks watch other shows, we even often volunteer because hey, we like this stuff too! Save any trash talk for the car or better yet, DON’T. And the faire has no “cone of silence” and you should focus on your own shortfalls


And here’s where I reveal my bias. I see you, multi-guild-pinned swaggerer with illicit booze leering at the youngsters.  You are not stealthy and, in fact not winning any friends.   You probably know many of our group as ‘always in the way’ or as we like to call ourselves “The MAssholes” (Short for Massachusetts)  There is one of you at every event and we try not to let you multiply-but like the ubiquitous roach, once you see one, you know you have to call in the professionals.

There is no  “one way” to enjoy renaissance faires and if we love them, we need to keep them healthy, welcoming spaces so we can all enjoy them for years to come.

















Warning: Adult discussion of harassment, rape and bad humans

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