Archives for posts with tag: Phoenix Swords

Guest blog by Fenix-cofounder

History of the fire swords

Flaming F
Saturday morning while I was waiting for my wife to get up, I was watching a show on The History Channel called “Forged in Fire”.
They take blade smiths and have them make various different weapons that they then abuse and declare a winner based on who’s retains an edge, doesn’t break, etc.
(Cut coconuts, smash ice, hit rocks, etc.)

Looking at previous episodes of the show, I found that the very first person who won the first episode is a person who used to make swords for our sword troupe. That was back when he was the M in MP metalworks.

There was a time, more than 10 year ago now, where about half the swords the troupe used were made by him:
http://phoenixswords.atthefaire.com/galleries/swords/index.html

Of the 6 different fire swords the troupe has used over the last 14 years, he made 4 of them.
OK, it’s really 4 of 6 ½, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

It didn’t even start with us.
The sword group my wife and I were in before Phoenix Swords had broken apart badly. It was 14 years ago and there are still people mad at each other about it. (I’m one of them.)
At least 4 different groups formed out of the 35 members of that old troupe.
Phoenix Swords is the only one of those still going.

One of the others was one of the two founders of that previous group. He wanted to get into fire performance. He was a very good performer who came up with excellent ideas for ways to perform. (And, many bad ones too.)
But, he just wasn’t very good at running a group. Even when it was just him in the group.
So, we worked out something where he would perform with Phoenix Swords, but remain independent of our group.

He came up with the idea for the very first of our fire swords. He went to M at MP Metalworks with his idea and M built him a prototype.
It is a regular sword modified to be a fire sword. Other than the modifications, it looks just like a regular sword.
Our friend who designed it only had the one built. He didn’t sword fight with it, he just danced with it.
As far as I know, he only did one show with it:

Then, he quit performance. Sadly, we had booked several fire shows for him that he now didn’t want to do. So, that is how Phoenix Swords got into fire shows.
And, I did end up with that very first fire sword. Fire sword Zero is what we used to call it.

M liked the sword he had modified and decided to build a pair of fire swords from the ground up.
Two of our members (A & R) bought them and we added them to our growing fire show.

They looked cool. The hilts were bent up with little flame shapes. The pommels on the bottom were also cut to look like flames.
This made them horribly dangerous as it put a sharp point on the bottom edge of the swords. I can’t count how many times those bottom points cut someone using them.

A&R didn’t work out all that well for our troupe and ended up leaving.
They took their fire swords with them. They had paid for them, not us, and I didn’t like the design anyhow.

Tom had M make a new fire sword for him.
It was a monster. Almost 6 feet long (180cm) and covered in flame, not a lot of folks were willing to have him swing it at him. I usually ended up doing the sword fight with him using the original prototype myself.
At least it had a round pommel and not the pointy ends.

Sadly the swords really weren’t up for being used as fire swords. The heat of the fire caused them to warp.
Tom’s big one had a particularly bad bend one show where my wife had to run onto the field and take it away from him with the fire proof blanket. (It worked for the show as I was supposed to be fighting him for revenge for him beating my wife. So the audience loved her stealing his fire sword…)

There had been another sword group located in Kansas that we worked with from time to time until they broke up.
One of their members made swords. When he did some of the shows with us, he looked at the fire shows and said “I could do that better”.

So, in 2007 he made us two new fire swords. They were of the same basic concept of the previous swords, but more proportional to the swords we used in our regular shows.

The very first show we used them in, the one I was using broke off at the hilt on the second hit.
This led to the “I’m not Aragorn” incident at the post office:
http://www.fbhjr.livejournal.com/5958.html
He didn’t ask for the blade back, just the handle. So, I’m not sure if I should count that as a fire sword repaired or an additional fire sword. That’s why I say we’ve had 6 ½ of them in the troupe.

Either way, the broken one was replaced and it has held up very well for the last 9 years.

The hilt did break off last year, but Cosmicirony was able to fix it for us.

Looking back at it all, it is strange to me to see the person who made those original swords, that were dangerous to the user and bent when being used for what they were made to do, and see him win a sword making competition. Especially as the final test was they fired a bullet at the edge of the sword he made to see if the blade would split it in two without breaking.
It did!
I was surprised. His old swords would never have lived through that.
But, it has been more than a dozen years too.

I guess practice makes perfect.
12 years of practice seems to have helped!

 

Note: This has been inspired by the articles, images and fallacies that have assaulted my eyeballs this week

Here is the list of what it takes to be a member of Phoenix Swords. If you have read this, you’ll notice that nowhere in that writing is gender mentioned. Yet, whenever we go to certain festivals or events it becomes a hot button.

A friend of ours who taught us a few things with swords has a sense of humor that comes under the heading “Acquired Taste” and often if most people within a 10-foot radius haven’t been provoked then he feels it is a failure. The first time I was being taught he cracked
“And we all know women have no business with swords.” But what I came to realize is that he actually specializes in working with women and it was meant to make me laugh. Sadly, most people who have said this were not giving a proverbial yank to the chain.

This same friend and I often banter back and forth about  gender and weapon use and agree that although women using swords in history was not common, it did happen and we have historical evidence of it. (This is not a manifesto or a research paper so no, I’m not linking here) And I am fully prepared at shows  to present my sources. Sometimes it is like swimming against a riptide, but I always seek to keep my composure, use humor when I can and just walk away when I have to do it. (And by the way, you swim  perpendicular to it)

I have often worked in fields that are considered to be “non-traditional” for women and I found that when I set people straight that I was there to do the job, that set a tone that made it more pleasant for everyone. I am not saying that every woman has great muscle mass or that every man is a bodybuilder-(and I object to sexism no matter which way it flows) but if we take it like a tide-some skill sets in, some skill sets out I think we all benefit.   And if you ask the women in our troupe, we hold them to the same standard and they can use swords right up until 8.5 months of pregnancy, if they are comfortable with that.  I know that I state over and over that I don’t engage in stupid physical threats. 1)I’m tired and somewhat out of shape 2) I have a very indiscriminate temper and limited self-control 3) I don’t spar regularly.

And as I mentioned earlier, I don’t like mocking or sexist behavior from anyone. If a woman wants to be all “Grrl power” that’s cool. But this does not include baiting people, or engaging in the same bad behaviors as misogynistic jerks who do it. I don’t need to see war wounds to know how tough you are, there are a lot of tough people out there with a high pain tolerance-that doesn’t make them skilled or particularly smart. And in some ways I am sexist, I expect better of women and that reflects in how we treat our troupe members, my husband has to rein me in sometimes.

When we do shows we don’t go all “Hai look at the Lady fighters!” we just go out and do our thing-we take punches, we do rolls, we come home occasionally with bruises and cuts. I have seen a long term change in a certain venue when our group calmly and dispassionately went about our business-because I strongly believe that is how you do it. And If someone (male or female) wants a “sexy” look, that’s fine too, because that is about their personal comfort and not about their competency-I just remind them how much it stinks to move messy gear in nice clothes and uncomfortable boots.

Let’s stop talking about role models and just be them. Like Europe after the Black Plague, sometimes we need to put aside old or just idiotic ideas and make use of talent, no matter the plumbing or packaging.

Some folks who hold to this idea of “just do it.”

Old Dominion Fechtschule

ARMS

Hurstwic

Esfinges Hema

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More inspirations Here

So you want to be good at something. According to Malcolm Gladwell it takes 10,000 hours  to be an expert. I think even with ten + years behind Fenix and I we still haven’t hit the 10,000 hour mark of any particular performance.   We try to emphasize to new folks that although it may be intimidating to see people with a lot more experience-they will reach that point as well. But we like to think that putting in our time gives us the ability to speak with authority on some matters.

When someone joins the troupe it tells us quite a bit about the individual performer when they simply won’t come to practice. Some folks have natural ability and that is great but without discipline and commitment, well that’s going to be short-lived with us.  And the person with not great skills who will come every week and improve, that is the person we’ll have who will do good work with us because every Sunday is another drop in the bucket of craftsmanship.  And we make sure it’s a good workout with 360 critique because there is no point in doing a skill badly with repetition. (See above)

I joke with our newer members that the first stage fight they learn will be their most enthusiastic, well-remembered fight.  It takes up all their time, they practice until it is perfect,  it is focused and very enthusiastic.  Plenty of brain space to slosh around.

It is when someone is holding 10-12 fights in memory that it frays a bit and often practice is MORE important because brains are tricky and can suddenly swap out one bit for another and performance is the worst place for it to happen. I freely admit that I have to practice just before each show because dividing between each set lets me focus and be in the “now” of what we have to do. Other members have taken up my habit of having a fight/set list safety-pinned somewhere on my person. (We have stopped with notes in a hat because certain members would snatch it off my head when they were unsure and I lost too much hair, painfully)

Two examples of extremes:
Naturally Gifted people are great…BUT. We had a friend with another troupe who regularly sparred with Olympic level fencers, good fitness, terrible stage tactics. When on stage for the first time, he reverted to targeting to hit. Fortunately his partner was fairly agile and it’s one thing to use a two-pound sword instead of a fencing foil so the audience never knew what went on and the partner simply nixed the movements that caused instincts to take over in the adrenaline rush. But one of his flaws was NOT PRACTICING, which when the crunch hit, went poorly.

On the other side of that we had someone who joined the troupe only to work as a “booth babe.” (We are gender-neutral in our ‘babe’-ness and think even if you are a Senior, we use this monniker and it’s so much nicer than “tent monitor”) She saw us using the weapons, eventually grabbed one and hasn’t looked back. What is great about her is that she attends regularly-even if she is firing on half cylinders some days, she maintains a certain level of memory and movement.

Practice allows the following:

If the ground is limited, we can tailor our fights to be bigger or smaller in coverage. Big difference between a basketball court, joust arena and a dance floor in a tavern.

If we have to share spots with other performers while still doing our regular fight sets, we can maneuver around others.  We do an exercise we call “driving” where one partner relies on the other to “steer” the fight away from obstacles. One member sighed and demanded to know why we bothered until the first time he had to work with (around) another fight team out-of-state, after that he agreed that it was good to have that level of control as others might not.

Things happen.  Our more senior players have a fight or skit with everyone else and we have, as nearly as up to a minute before show, had to swap out performers. The audience did not know because it was seamless and we had a backup plan.

Practice means a greater span to ad-lib if necessary. Sometimes the audience makes moments for you and if you are confident and well-practiced, you can go off-script and it will make a better show.

More skills, more stage time. You would think this is fairly intuitive but it isn’t.

I like our members to look at their first fight videotaped and then, compare it with the work they do a year later.

And that’s when it makes an impact, that is what practice does.

For those of you on Facebook, we were featured on Renaissance Performers and Merchants! We didn’t call the article “Epic!” but we’ll take it!

http://networkedblogs.com/Or9vm

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As some of you know, Phoenix Swords does a fire show in addition to the swords. Over a decade ago, there were not as many performance and prop groups out there. Or at least not very mainstream. Thanks to Cirque De Soleil and Burning Man and every movie that needs a fire breather for “Ambiance,” knowledge about fire, fire performance and fire safety is far more available these days. In any case if you ask to do fire acts my first response is “don’t.” My second is “well, at least do it safely.” This blog is not about resources or training, it’s about what it means to decide to play with fire.

One of our initial fire performers with Phoenix used to do our fire introduction with new members who wanted to do fire. We found it was instructive to have a performer who had actually  set himself  aflame to warn how bad it could be. At my request, he wrote it down (the full story is available publicly if you know where to look) This occurred when he was part of another group, his own words;

WARNING  DESCRIPTION OF BEING ON FIRE FOLLOWS:

My breath of fire ends and I feel the painful vacuum of a thoroughly exhausted repertory system. Sadly I also feel a quarter mouth full of fuel. I turn away from the torch to spit the fuel and reach for the glass of water behind me…. An experienced fire spitter might have had a second thought about wind direction right then, if I had had a moment I might have. Right then My body rejected its combustible guest coughing and spiting the wad of fuel and saliva all over my self. The fumes of fuel wafting past my face as thin as they are, are sufficient to catch the torch in the other hand ‘which was at least four feet from the cough’ with the speed of stupidity the flames race along a tract of fumes back to their source. If only that source had not been my face.

All our lives we are taught that should you ever catch fire stop drop and role. As useful as that sound I is the least practical piece of propaganda ever written. The shock value of catching your head on fire super seeds learned responses activating the instinctual mind In this instance overwhelming it when the only thing you can see is fire the only thing to do is close your eyes and wait for the end. Another funny thing happens, the rational mind is still running not going anywhere but running and unencumbered by the decision making process it goes into high gear thousands of thoughts happen at once and you are aware of them all, As though knowledge of your coming demise encouraged them to get as much out before the building collapses.

In the real world a few practiced conditioned responses are engaged by my shocked mind. I hold the wet rag over my mouth and nose to prevent fire from getting in. Good idea right, would have been if I had rinsed the rag after each spit. Instead I am holding a fuel soaked rag against my face. Some part of my mind gets that but can’t veto the original thought of cover your mouth. I also drop the torch, which would seem like logic if I weren’t stumbling around like an idiot kicking over the jar of fuel.

So here I am [FnF] the human match dancing in a puddle of fire before a macabre audience of awe struck ax wielding barbarians. And I think “what an embarrassing way to die.” At about that instant I am tackled from the right by a drunken pirate captain and from the left by a velvet clad jester. Behind me an Asian battle princess throws a bucket she expects to be full of water, to find out it contains a wet towel. The Guys wrap my head in their puffy sleeves extinguishing me……

So after my brush with death. The crowd of curious onlookers gathers around to check out the carnage. These are the people who slow down at a traffic accident to see if there is a body; useless to the victim and a nuisance at best to any one actively trying to help. I am in too much pain to ward them away as they examine the blisters that have formed around the edges of my nostrils, and along my ears, and the mosaic or red and white flesh in between. My friends find wet rags and soda cans which are sadly the only source of cold we have available. My brother- the jester who put me out, piles me into the car and speeds off to the hospital which is in this case a long ways off. Half way there my soda has reached urine like temperatures. The pain comes with waves of nausea, and by the psychological inertia of trauma I can’t take away the rag and can on my face.

If you’ve read that, know that he survived with only second-degree burns, has a small scar on his cheek and occasionally still does fire acts, and even breathing. But this is the first part of anyone who wants to work with fire has to hear. After that, we make them  take this test.  This lets us open up a dialogue about what is really involved with safe fire use.

The second way to suss out if someone is suited to fire performance is to have them go through the act of working with fire. I have seen people who thought they were fully prepared and ready,  scream  and throw  tools down (a good, healthy reaction actually) On the flip side I have seen someone who said “no way” step in and be one of the best instinctive spotters we have. (def: Spotter, person who maintains safety and puts out lit performers, objects and stages during a performance, your vernacular may vary. We just say “safety.”) There is no way to tell until under careful, controlled circumstances  how anyone’s “Monkey Brain” will respond.  We use the term “Monkey Brain” quite a bit, not in a derogatory way but to indicate that sane, median people generally don’t gravitate to things that can hurt them, their inner primate has alarm bells built into it.  I’ve had this discussion with my cousin the police officer and when he laughed about how I was mentally broken, I had to point out that when someone calls about shots fired or violence he answers
“I’ll be right there!” So really it’s about your personal measurement of risk.

Here’s a question everyone should ask-not IF I will burn myself but WHEN I burn myself, what will I do? Because no matter how good you are, fire, environment and fuels are variable. For those of you familiar with industry standards,  1% failure rate is not an acceptable risk. And if there was NEVER failure, cars wouldn’t break down, planes wouldn’t crash…you get the idea. Working safely with fire is minimizing risk, but ultimately YOU are responsible for YOU and with whom you work. I’ll go into procedures in another blog entry but there is never a “just this once we won’t…” exceptions being small tricks in which three safety members would be less safe and more Three Stooges.

Read that far? Good, let’s assume that you’ve practiced, you’re comfortable and ready to go. Are you ready for an audience? It’s much like a multi-tiered puzzle box-new level of complexity.  Will your audience respect the rules?  Are you carrying fuels safely from place to place, are they secure? And environments change quickly.  We have one stage that we use that is  sometimes quite windy but I appreciate it because it has a clear audience demarcation and is made of concrete. At this point you have exceeded what you can think about as a performer. In Phoenix, the performer is not asked to assess this. Their job is to get on stage, stay safe and focused and get off stage.  The safety people are our backbone, they  are what makes it possible to go onstage and be great.

So what has happened to me as a performer? My own experience is multiple burns and a great safety team.

When the percentages went against me:

  • Unknown hole in my fire pants, underwear lit and I had to have my butt put out. (meteors)
  • Grabbing a hot fire sword forgetting I was wearing a fingerless glove.
  • Having a knee give out and I toppled backwards, fell, my tool bounced back, hit my eye, bounced out. I suffered only some singed eyebrows  and a shiner. (meteors)
  • Not tilting far enough back during fire eating, seared nose hair-very odiferous.

And the final part: getting burnt, accepting it is a part of what to expect, getting up and finishing the act, continuing to do fire without regrets. I don’t have enough fingers to count how many people have NOT made it past this last step.

But some of you are saying
“Fire is so sexy! How have you made it so unsexy!”
Fire is sexy, and scary and can do harm to more than just you. And if you flirt with danger, sometimes danger is a bad date and you should be careful. I’m not saying that if this is your calling, forget it . I understand the siren song is strong and if you are good at it, well it puts you in a smaller segment of the population.  But I am saying go at it with a clear mind, specific intention and a REALLY good safety-because at least one smart person should be around when you push down all those clever instincts and do the unthinkable.

Who else has something to say on the subject?
Home of Poi

North American Fire Arts Association

Boston Spinners

Worcester Spin Jam

Note: We do take people and teach them fire use BUT we also require a year of commitment because we have no interest in training our competition. 🙂

As always, feel free to contact me.

This blog entry is inspired by a friend of mine who is doing sword training for kids over the Summer, an imminent visit by our Godkids and some generalized statements spewed in my vicinity.

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I was fortunate to be exposed to weapons at a young age-specifically guns.  I had both good and bad examples set before me and as an adult have chosen not to have a gun. Take note of that word “chosen” it will feature here.  We expose children to images of guns, swords, lasers and who-knows-what else every day. What we often don’t give them is context.  As  Fenix says
“Any kid with a tent pole and a sibling is already getting the idea of how to use a weapon.” 

Our group gives sword lessons for kids. We’ve been criticized for glorifying violence, indoctrinating children and a thousand other mutterings that in the large scheme of the universe don’t stay in my memory.  Giving sword lessons is instructive for both the trainee and the teacher. When we do  these we are NOT teaching anyone how to defend against ninjas, real or imagined, we are letting the kids understand that it’s a big hunk of steel, it can do damage and it’s not going to be a long or fun lesson if they can’t settle down and cooperate. Frankly, by the time kids come to us, those are skills they should have equipped but sadly, not always the case.

Swords, like many other object, are neither good nor evil. They are made for a certain purpose and in our modern society, unless one is going to the Olympics, really not needed in your average household. But we have, as a society, imbued them with some status and mystique and so it is no wonder so many people are fascinated by them. Some carry this through to adulthood with fencing, competing, sparring, collecting, performing, … and they can be seen and held by children.

Our home has *never* been child-proofed, and a number of decorative weapons hang on the walls. In the office hangs a war hammer that is above the reach of most children but we have far more problems with ADULTS pulling it down and being stopped from ‘just giving it a swing.’  The children who visit know enough not to touch other people’s things and definitely not to use them without permission. Sadly most households have not raised their children this way and on cnn.com I read every day about weapon-related deaths, many of which could have been prevented with a simple discourse about how weapons are not a toy.

In the Northeast United States, there are quite a few Summer Camps that teach kids how to use bows, swords and guns. The people who are teaching this often do so for money, but most of them it’s genuinely to share a love of knowledge and to teach respect and skills. I would take a 12-year-old who has been raised in a family of careful gun owners as a student over a child who has been isolated from the impact of what picking up something with an intent to harm can do. These are the really dangerous kids, with parents who won’t let them get involved with violence but leave them unattended with video games or a television. When I encounter these kids they think that there are no consequences but by the time they have spent 10 minutes holding a 3-pound sword, their view has changed a bit. (And I am a bit of an ass since I make them test their strength with a blade before I give a weapon. The non-liars generally get a lighter sword) And I don’t mind if they test me because it’s important that they learn I won’t harm them,  hold swords for a reason, and allow them some time in their own heads to learn important adult lessons. Lessons such as I won’t have the advantage in every confrontation, I should use tools effectively, and that there are consequences to my action and reactions. (I’m sure any teach can list more reasons) And mostly, that patience and cooperation will get me longer, better lessons.

And closing this out, if you choose to send your kid to sword camp or have that raggity-looking set of performers  at the faire work with them, you are right to be skeptical and alert, and hey, perhaps you can join in as well. No matter what we teach the kids, you are the best example they can have so please set a good one.

There are two acts that use swords that are geared directly toward kids that we’d recommend if you are at a faire:

The Nature of Mercy and Days of Knights, these guys* are inspirational and fun.

*guys is a gender-neutral term near Boston, MA

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 FAME AND FORTUNE (not)

As countless articles cited many times before,  if someone has decided to don those leather shoes and put on that jaunty cap, it is  not for a segment on E! or like many British actors in Hollywood, a stupidly huge paycheck.  It is because there is some aspect of personality that scratches the performing or personal itch. I can’t pretend I’ll cover them here but can share at least some of the reasons  given to me when asked.

Making the magic:
This is old and powerful, almost everyone has a pinch of this. Somewhere, sometime someone saw a performer, vendor, visitor  get up do a show or a talk or a tete-a-tete and the moment transcended dusty lanes and shiny clothes. In that moment, everyone in it was transported out of time, out of a place with cares and there was a gorgeous piece of intimacy that made everyone better for participating in it. We’ve witnessed these,  received these and in some cases we’ve made these.   These don’t just happen at renfaires  but because of the lack of technological distraction and the natural closeness of people, sights and smells I think they have a chance of staying with people longer. In most of the cases of our performers these happened at faires of all sizes but that bug bit badly because of this magic-making.

Reinvention of the Self:
Hopefully you’ve read my last blog entry, if not I’ll wait.
In many cases  a shy, introverted or simply a not fully realized person has the opportunity to go and expand, learn and enjoy some self-discovery. Or in the rather long end of the spectrum, chase some tail. (If you are too young to understand that, you probably should stop reading this blog.) In her book,  Wake Up I’m Fat, Camryn Manheim cites renfaires as a place where she blossomed. Penn and Teller began at faires  and Doctor Kaboom still does renfaires but generally not as a mud beggar any more.  I’m certain there are other examples but this is a blog not a research paper so let’s move on.

This is not to say that the “big time” or that the pinnacle of achievement is to leave off doing faires or other events. In fact, quite a few people do very well and genuinely enjoy the circuit because of its intimacy and atmosphere. And I’d rather watch a well-done live show any day of the week before sitting in a movie theater or turning on the television. In fact, working at faires has really spoiled me in many ways and it’s not uncommon for us to experience what a friend calls “faire hangover” when coming back from a job. When a performer spends a weekend expending energy like a Coast Guard Spotlight on a rescue mission, the day after with the dirty laundry, cleaning gear and getting up to do day-to-day things can be a bit adjustment. And sometimes the world seems a little less sparkly and innovative after seeing so much high-end talent and graciousness.

Finding like-minded people:
Much as the so-called “normal” world would like us to think that acceptance is the median state, it absolutely is not the case. With media bombarding people with “the new normal” of body types,  manscaping and ‘right kind of people’ as well as terrible stereotypes played for laughs, some of us find it wearying. I am not saying that renaissance faires are paragons of acceptance (and I see a future blog post coming on that subject) but they do tend to be more accepting of folks who do not march to the American Media goose-step.   For my own personality, I am, according to a common personality test given by employers, a type that is embraced by less than 1% of the population.  And at one point we had three of us in the troupe.  In day-to-day encounters most of us in Phoenix Swords have to rachet down our base personalities to get along and blend in with others.  This is not necessarily unhealthy, but it does mean that when the costume goes on,  the limiters come off and we can be out our loud, proud inner selves and get paid for it.  And  another nice thing about renaissance festivals-you may have nosy neighbors but everyone understands that there are fewer fences and closed blinds. The capitalist competition to be a cookie-cutter American falls flat when everyone is  relying on whatever is brought and shared for food and resources, and generally given without reservation.  Alternate lifestyles are also not generally under scrutiny (and working at renfaires falls under that VERY broad brush)  We still are not big after-hours participants but it’s nice to be part of a social group that isn’t discussing their latest coupe at the country club or celebrity misstep.

Creating:
First and foremost-participants at a festival are artists. Everyone from the “squire” picking up trash, the rat-on-a-stick guy to the royalty wearing outfits that cost as much as my first car. They are all doing their part in creating a work of art. This is part of the magic, but is the backbone of the magic. Everyone’s good time is spoiled if we can’t take a pee in a clean toilet, eat food we know is generally safe or sit comfortably in a semi-shaded spot so we can focus on having fun.  Sure there is an element of danger but it’s not directed at the audience, they get to live vicariously through those of us kooky enough to entertain them in such a manner.   And that guy/gal who laughs at all your jokes and guffaws at your idiocy, they are the ones who open the floodgates for everyone to enjoy the work of art. Even the hecklers keep us on our game and *surprise* may end up in the act. This is my addiction-to create a piece, set it up and let it go. We approximate our shows to firing a cannon-we can clean it, load it, prime it and fire it but hopefully the targeting is good, once fired it’s in the air.  And still in the ‘creation’ aspect we are re-creating a tradition that goes back as far as when three people gathered and someone said “hold my beer.”

Final wrap-up last reasons with some quick statements of other reasons cited for working at the renfaire:
“What else would I do with my liberal arts degree?”
“No one asks if I’ve been convicted of a felony.” (Joking, kind of)
“I love making things look easy and bringing people along for that.”
“I love the camaraderie.”
“To meet chicks” (given that vernacular, I don’t think it’s a location issue.)
“To perform and be admired.”

But if you want to work at the festival you have to, in the words of Spamalot  you should ‘Find your Grail’ and work from there. Hopefully this gave you some insights.