Archives for posts with tag: performer

Sometimes I wonder if I am the poster child for reasons not to work at the renaissance faire. My first experiences were mixed (understatement)  I am not a particularly romantic or nostalgic person and as far as I can tell, despite being the most critical of how things can go, I am still doing this after over twelve years.

So unlike past blogs, I’m going to be a little more about me, me, me.

The first faire I worked had some ingrained problems,  no one was going to fix them, the fest depended a little too much upon the goodwill of a limited number of people and I think this graphic sums up:

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When I stopped working at that festival, the group we’d been with exploded in a spectacular way. Although it wasn’t obvious to others, the staff had endemic issues that eventually led to the end of that faire.

Some great things came out of that so I focus on those.  We started Phoenix Swords “with 500.00 and a grudge.” (one of our members jokes to me “at least you still have the grudge.” And if you wonder what a good money amount to begin would be…)   Most of the acts at that faire have gone on to be organizers and nationwide acts

Wanting to use swords but not necessarily in performance led to Higgins Armory Museum and the sword guild there. I really learned to love manuals, history and did some Western Martial Arts  for a number of years and I made some great friends-all related to swords and study.

Another great set of friends came from sharing my bad experiences online and as others experienced their groups exploding. What could have been terrible, they turned around and made the best of it.  We commiserated and were better for doing it. There is nothing like experiencing a crucible and coming out the other side to confirm commitment and self.

For me, I am a magnet for strange people and I sometimes evoke hostility from people who consider themselves “Alphas” in the various communities where we perform. (I’m told it is because I am not a very readable person and my ‘just hanging out’ vibe is taken as a challenge.)  If you, dear reader, and I went to a faire together, I *promise* you that within the first hour, costume or not, you would have an experience leaving you with a face that looks like this.

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 I’ve made my peace with it but it has tested my love of performing and being around crowds.   So the advice I give people is this:

Have a support system unrelated to the renaissance faire community-if you can. Sometimes it is your support system but *everyone* is worthy of love and respect-and you should start with yourself. Beware the people who use passive- aggressive, negative energy to try and hold you back or control you.

Yes, what I do is silly, let’s move on to the next obvious statement. Still on that? Let me make fun of your Fantasy football league or obsession with “Reality Shows.”

Every performance is a learning experience, good or bad. Come back fighting and never be content with “the usual.” Go back and look at your old performances, try not to wince, but be proud of where you are.

Experience Wonder. This is one I need to occasionally kick myself to make the point. You may be a jaded, elitist snob but not everyone is and you need to keep that to yourself. And frankly if your energy is at tearing someone down, you need to refocus that.

The Japanese believe that longevity is linked to purpose. Have a reason to visualize, stretch and learn every day.  I’m not saying we all don’t have lazy or sad days, but you need not to let them string together for too long. Every Spring I go through a cranky, snarky slump and whine about getting out and working the moneymaker.  Once I hit bottom and the rest of the troupe laughs at me, it’s time to make some magic and that begins with my feet hitting the ground .

I’ve written another blog that I may or may not go back to but if you want to read about my adventures with Phoenix-it’s here. (You’ll have to scroll back through A LOT of Good News Friday to get to the meat)

I encourage the folks who have been on this journey with me to totally self-promote in comments and out yourself because you are awesome and people should know who you are. 🙂

 (and yes, these are true stories)

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1)      Directions can be optional. For our group we try to leave early and use a mix of local help, google maps and GPS. Note that I don’t say one of these things is better than the other but as least there is cross-referencing going on and you *might* get there with no issue. It can be a bit of a strain on the earliest arrivals. One fair we arrived before the signs went up and the location was a large, unplowed field next to a church.  The church had not updated its address on the website so car two actually reached there first.  Another example was a faire that took place so far out of town that the locals had never even heard of the location. But car one chugged along the red clay roads, hoping that there were no shotguns involved, and included in the final directions were
“and turn left at the dead armadillo.”  Sure they laughed, but it did get everyone to the site.

2)      Sometimes the people running the event have less of an idea of what is going on that you do, in many cases it is not their fault. It’s just what happens.  In earlier entries I mention having an ability to find one’s center in these crisis moments. It’s important that no matter the language, activity or event, one breathes deeply and makes a new plan. (see Sun Tzu)  we carry a tent and in your case, your Zen temple may be your car or that space behind some hay bales.  Our SOP is to find a respected authority (you can tell, people come up screaming and running with flailing arms like a muppet and ask them questions) and pick a spot and confirm your showtimes. If conflicting information arises, redirect them to ‘authority’  Arriving early can sometimes be a boon as you are a ‘solved problem’ and no one wants to take the time to dislodge you (sort of like a friendly lamprey!)  Some of the items we’ve seen-no schedule, so we told the organizer when and where we’d set up. Or that some mysterious entity came by in the dead of night and rearranged vendor and performer site tags to suit themselves. (We didn’t have popcorn but took in the show anyway!) And receiving a totally inappropriate area for performance (You guys do a fire show and swords? I guess in the hallway is a bad spot, huh?) And let the person who helps you take credit for the good idea even if you came up with it. Safety, harmony and happiness are key.

3)      Occasionally there are no basic amenities. Always carry water and food with you. I don’t recommend dehydration but sometimes it’s not a bad thing when there is nowhere to water the wildlife. And garbage bags, med kit, safety pins, tools and duct tape. I wish folks who get hurt would stop first at the first-aid. Sadly, they usually stop at the tent with the sword people.

4)      Contracts are your friends, read them, know them, carry a copy with you. Same with MSDS sheets, insurance policies and emergency contacts for your members. We keep ours in the medical kit. It would be lovely if no one ever needed to double-check these but if you need them, it’s a life saver.

5)      Checklists, you laugh but it keeps life sane

6)      Dirty laundry and extra clothing-some individuals are under the impression that it’s okay to reuse costuming without washing and airing. They are wrong.  The cleaner you are, the better off you are. This includes hygiene, brushing off dirt, doing a spot-check on clothes. And yes, you should wash them as soon as you get home-it doesn’t start to smell better the longer you wait.

7)      There may be animals, including insects. Or pigs, or horses, or cats. If you have allergies carry benadryl or an epi-pen(or both.) This is true of strange foods as well. If you are a lactose-intolerant celiac with animal allergies, I hope you have a great health plan and the fair may well be a miserable place for you. And yes, animals poop.

8)      Be aware.  Wind picking up? May want to pull down your pop-up-and dodge the other tent rolling your way. Horse loose? Stay out of the way of the person with the rope calling its name. Small child crawling onto your stage?  Faire security can’t be everywhere, sometimes you have to be your own guardian angel.

9)      Some people will try not to pay you.  Try to never leave a site without getting paid. Don’t care if it is your grandma paying you in cookies, do your best not to let this happen.

10)   Have fun and let your freak flag fly, it’s why you are here.  It is also why others are here. You will experience things at the faires that you may want to write about later.  In our troupe we have what we call “2-beer stories.” These are tales that only come out after someone has bought me two beers and we are in an adult setting. They aren’t always about me but I’m told well worth the cost of admission. You need to keep an open mind and roll with the punches. You will learn quite a bit, even if you didn’t want to know certain things. If it is all too much-remember your Zen temple.

I tell you these things not to discourage, but to make aware the new performers, and even then, this really will only be an “oh yeaaah….” Somewhere in the back of your mind when it occurs. I mean this with all my heart; wash your costumes, there are few things nastier than renfaire garb put away dirty and left to ferment.