Archives for posts with tag: renfaires

ramor

 

When we were at the symposium a few weeks ago, Roger Norling told the attendees he became interested in HEMA because he’d seen a fencing demonstration at a Renaissance Faire.  He’s not the first person from whom we’ve heard that and it’s good thing to keep in mind of you are doing sword demonstrations at a renfaire. It made me think of some things we keep in mind before we go out on stage.

People go to faires to have fun-it’s a good way to hook in anyone. People are receptive, they are in a good mood and if you sneak in some education under the radar-even better. One of the things I have to hold back on is overpowering the questioner. I try to let them lead the questions, tell me their story and then do a sub-conscious set of calculations to see what it is that *really* interests them. And be interested in them- If you are reciprocal then you learn some cool things as well. I’ve talked to veterans, active soldiers, survivors of gang violence, dojo runners, martial artists, other HEMA folks and just plain interesting individuals.  In many cases, we aren’t the sort of thing the person is looking for and I am happy we’ve taken the time to keep a set of links on our website to guide them on their journey.

We let people touch things. Humans are visceral creatures who like to work that instinct of feeling a thing to explore it. Often, just before our shows, we walk around and let the audience hold the longsword or one of the falchions. (As an inside fact, this is a good way to kill some time before the start and when people see non-performers with a sword, they too, want a sword. Audience magnet!)  We do sword lessons with kids at some shows (for pay) depending on our agenda for the day and we see recurring faces year after year. We talk about how swords “touch back” which is important. Just like fire it’s not “if” but “when” for getting a little reminder that there is danger involved with handling these things. People are amazed by the clearly used edges, the weight and yes if it’s a wet day…the rust.

Be casual and not preachy, exclusionary or elitist. I won’t lie, some people can pull off the “I’m am just that cool” vibe but that shine wears right off if you denigrate your audience and don’t keep learning yourself. There is a certain woman, media famous in the HEMA community that I used to admire. She still does good work but chose to make fun of tourists in her blog.  First-“if ya can’t say something nice…” Secondly, she was no doubt supported on this tour by someone who probably didn’t look like her but was vicarious with her by sponsorship.  And third, it was supposed to be about her sword studies, meetings etc. so off-topic. I am delighted to let folks of all stripes and abilities touch and learn about swords because “don’t be that guy.”  I won’t lie, I’m enjoying some of the folks side-by-side with me start to realize that perhaps scholarship is not just there for the younger folks to rip off and you too, will catch “the old.”

If you don’t get it out there, no one will know.  I’m not going to tally the number of times that I have calmly swallowed down some fury and carefully explained our position of research, that we don’t know everything and that maybe it’s not such a good thing to be bombastic and insulting to peers in the sword community. I often find myself mentally quoting our friends in Mystic Mercs.
“You do you.”
So yes, you may the most amazing swordsperson and scholar ever, but if no one else knows or you don’t share for review, well, it’s going to stay your special secret. Sure we wear silly costumes and are in a context of fantasy but do get it out there and do open that portal for someone who would only think this sort of stuff happens in movies or media with no connection. And you need to hustle- I won’t lie, I keep a public list littered with the names of dead and defunct sword performers, strictly for informational purposes of course.

bonnet

And Reenactors/historians, I’ve posted what I have to say about renfaires vs reenactment and, you’re welcome that I directed people your way.  We freely admit that history is cool and wish HALF of what we learn in our exploration was in public school textbooks. (George Silver and his call-outs to Italian fencers, Or Talhoffer versus Pirates on the Rhine) Many people want their sword show and their turkey leg. Others would like to know more and we are happy to direct them to more.  So sure we’re a little sketchy in our mixed-material, brightly colored outfits and we make jokes that encourage groaning but we do get out there and we do bring that first taste of history.   And if we can get them to bite down on that first bit, maybe we’ve just addicted them to some more education.

Or just made fabric-holics and clothes horses but *shrug*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Martyrdom-of-Saint-Hippolytus

I’ve been doing this blog for a number of years,  and  have yet to talk about the experience of organizing a renaissance faire. I’ve done three.  Every single one has made me cry. All in different, terrible ways. I open with this because making this only one blog entry is impossible so I’ll isolate some general things in this one, rather than take on those additional entries.

Organizing a faire has three major costs, financial, emotional and social.  At the end of it you will be bleeding from a thousand cuts and if you wonder why so many successful faire organizers are rampaging arseholes (they don’t have to be, mind you) it may be  that you need to grow a thick skin and be willing to cut babies in half (aka King Solomon)

First, read this: So you want to start a renfaire:
Have you finished? No really, go back and read it.

So let’s say you have hit this checklist and still think it’s worthwhile. Great, now watch this video (skip in 30 seconds)
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/an-6sxl27Ytmhbbbu/the_producers_2005_empty_safe/

I have violated this so many  times because I am a perfectionist. And as a performer, I made sure all my performers were paid in advance. And all my bills as well. Many organizers rely on their vendor fees to support the cost of the faire. This is a big gamble and doesn’t always pay off. It might go great the first year but if vendors don’t get a financial return, they don’t physically return. And if you are in a fire/show/event rich area like we are, you are competing to get the interesting sellers.

You can put on a good small faire for about 2-3 thousand dollars (not including site) and *a lot* of volunteer help. And no matter how much you budget-it won’t be enough.  Having sponsors is great but you may be making a deal with the Devil as well. I’ve seen some pretty scary “partner interactions, some people do believe that paying sufficient amounts of money means they’ve bought you, body and soul. It’s a tough thing to have giants signs for a business in the middle of your medieval town. It’s your call.

Emotional. Yeah. If you have a good support network that is a great thing. Running a renfaire is a lot like getting married, it’s a big commitment, it’s expensive, it has a lot of moving parts and it produces Bridezillas. Oh, and  so many unexpected, rampaging drama llamas. My husband told me that he could spot me  across fields 1) by the timbre of my voice 2) the rocketing projectile of the top of my head soaring through the air.

I am sure I made terrible remarks about unborn children and peoples naughty bits. My only defense is that it was in response to some fairly WTF things. Like vendor coordinators quitting within three weeks of a faire after finding out they hadn’t sent out any vendor contracts or a person who was going to help me advertise simply vanishing.*poof* So not only was I putting out fires, I was getting into hazard gear and putting out different kinds of metaphorical  fires. And you will be a terrible friend, and faires have cost me friends. Nothing like a giant mess with you at the top of the pyramid . And the best-run faires generally aren’t democracies. As that perfectionist,  I was a rampaging beoch who was willing to take the hit, so the folks helping me could run interference and have a stick to brandish. The flip side is that I judge faires, and I judge them to a high standard. I will forgive a lot if they have accessibility,  potties, places to sit, people to help and lots of  food.

Emotionally I found running a faire to be like having a an alien baby-extreme pain, emotional anguish and then it was born with a full set of teeth and chewed its way out anyway.

Socially-running a faire killed my social life. It turned all my friends into potential assets, people who disagreed into obstacles. And people will fight you about some of the most unbelievable things-

  • No, you can’t park in the swampy field, you will not get out
  • No,  I have spent my budget for performers and I don’t feel that your steampunk/neongypsy/cowboy/ cousin is a good fit anyway
  • No, I am not changing the lot assignment the night before for YOUR sense of aesthetics

It’s a shame the song “no” wasn’t around when I did faire organizing because I would just put these lyrics on a quickly-triggered MP3 on my phone to play on repeat
My name is no, my sign is no, my number is no
You need to let it go, you need to let it go

Were there pros?
Yes there were.

For the third one, I put on the faire I always thought I could with the great people at Ye Olde Commons. We had nothing but positive feedback except for some accessibility issues.  My troupe did a fantastic job – huge shout-out to Monica and Valkyrie for going above and beyond. And I owe so much to my husband who came in and helped me deal with a butt-load of unexpected problems, he was my hero. And all the troupe members who uncomplainingly took on extra and kept me sane.

Some things I had that at all of the faires that I am proud of
Excellent Acts, who, to this day still are friends and we had some very fun after hours times as well as fun in daylight with the patrons. Also, some acts that will never be seen again, ever and are diamonds in a chain of many lives.
I treated the vendors very well-many were disappointed I couldn’t do it again.
I got to mix some stuff together which was a tasty fusion delight and patrons will never know how by-the-seat-of-our-pants it was until it came together beautifully.
Larger faires trying to poach my acts-not realizing that many of these people did it as a personal favor.

But I don’t think I can do it again. I’ve done it on a smaller scale as an anniversary party  and my friends and family had a blast. (And in fact, people are on me to get the next one organized) My hat is off to those who organize faires but I much prefer being a performer.

And on that note: you cannot perform AND run a faire effectively. Just. Don’t. You will do both-poorly. It’s too much crazy in one bottle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

medieval-snowball-fight-650x300

Recently we had a nice talk with another group and the person was respectful, full of good info and there was a mutual “attaboy!” shared. But something I never, ever forget, that there are twenty  five  (that I know of) fight groups in the MA/CT area alone. And there are at least ten fire performance groups locally, some of which have happily done jobs we’ve  turned down.

First, we are still here after twelve years and we have at least 50% of our original members and our maintenance is often measured in years.  We do our best to never badmouth anyone else, because everyone has a learning curve and needs to start somewhere.  When you are bad to your members,  we often end up with your disillusioned ex-members. And no one lives in a vacuum, the renfaire circuit LOVES gossip and sadly, many race to spread bad news.  We’ve had our detractors and we’ve outlasted them. I am not saying longevity is the measure of GOOD, mind you, but it does say something if you’re still in business.

Teach me your tricks.
Say WHAT? Although folks don’t phrase it that way, well okay, some have and the chutzpah made my eyebrows disappear behind my shirt collar.   In most cases, folks are enthusiastic and don’t realize what they have asked. And if they are more than 250 miles away from our home base, I have no issue with it. This is a rule many faire organizers have as well-which stinks for certain types of professions-Actors for instance. We’ve had a well-known group teach us some fire tricks and that was kind of them. Remember no one is obligated to share anything and it’s essentially training your competitors.  In many cases I will treat folks to the fire hose of information and let them sort it out. It’s knowing WHAT to do with the information that is the important part.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery:
To be honest our group was founded with a “we can do this better” attitude. In an example of parallel evolution, many fighting and fire groups have a similar model. It usually comes down to leadership differences and what comes out on stage. Performers should tinker for a niche,  because if you just copy someone outright-they have been doing it longer and better and you will do poorly head-to-head.

Using someone’s good name to enhance your own. This is a great strategy-if you actually worked with those folks. When we first started we had people gunning for us-so we beefed up our CV with a number of organizations and came back swinging. We have the opportunity to use the name of several respectable institutions in what we have built and can name names and make references.  We’ve been quizzed by rightly cynical people and had to stand and deliver.  We don’t mind , we really have done what we say we have.  The flip side is people who are either slippery or have outright lied. Earlier this year we had a faire organizer try to verify that someone worked with us and my answer was “Who?” What many people forget is that although we appear quite corporate,  it’s still very one-on-one and I have no issue with embarrassing someone who is riding our hard-earned public reputation undeservedly.

The renfaire is not the cone of silence , once the word has left your lips, it gains a power on its own.   I’m not saying you aren’t entitled to opinions, I’m just saying there are repercussions to blurting things aloud.  So if you run around adding your two cents about other acts or the organizer of other folks in general,  chances are, they’ll hear it. Early on,  one vendor employee was going on about how our group had no shows, and members were defecting and how could anyone be part of us, when our member answered
“Why don’t you ask the leader himself? He’s standing right there.”

The absolute worst sort of competitor is the one who steals your material and then performs it in front of you. It’s a special sort of backhand that tests the resolve. In some ways it is illuminating, it lets you see the material caricatured so you can analyze it and it tells you it is time to develop new material. After all, who needs to get a double dose of well-worn routines? Won’t lie, when I see this happen, it makes my right temple twitch and my eyesight go red for a bit-but we channel that into something productive and no one goes to jail.

And if a show doesn’t suit us? Well we will pass it on to someone we know. And it works back the other way as well-it’s how we’ve snagged some shows. So competitors don’t have to be enemies, they are our peers, our mentors, those we teach  and sometimes a very unflattering mirror. For the long haul, it’s best to focus on your personal best, rather than what the other guy is doing. But it doesn’t mean we’re not sneaking peeks at one another and assessing for the future…

stabyou

I’ve mentioned it several times on this blog that Renfaires tend to have DRAMA. I can’t speak to how others deal with it but I am going to point out some of my own experiences and how I coped.

To begin, everyone has drama of some type or another, we are all living a Greek Tragedy and one has to equip coping mechanisms. At the faire this gets ramped up because it has been my experience that dramatics and performances attract dramatic people. I just wanted to justify owning and using a sword and that was my first experience with “FAIRE!!!” I did not do it to enhance my personal self-esteem, be an elitist, join the “faire family” or be a superstar. So this pretty much put me at odds with 90% of the faire community.

If it feels wrong, it is. I can’t recount the number of times someone dismissed my fears, bad feelings, misgivings or outright discomfort at some of the things going on around me. This ranged from rampaging sexism to illegal acts. You know what if you don’t like it-if you can’t speak out, relocate. This is direct from the How to Deal with Difficult People seminar. You might be accused of having an overactive bladder or worse, but you know what? You won’t be there (hopefully) when all those chickens of doom come home to roost.

What if you decide to make your line in the sand? Well, there is a price to be paid for that and sadly sometimes you don’t know someone is racking up those charges on your behalf (more on that later) but don’t compromise your internal integrity. I am not asking you to be the faire police (because that’s another end of the spectrum) but if someone does something you don’t like or feel is unjust, speak up. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many others will thank you for it. My own example comes from a couple that once joked
“For all I know you are those every-Sunday church people. Hurr, hurr.”
“We are”
Awkward silence.
But that set up a personal boundary that stopped a lot of unsavory behavior and the unrevealed Christian guy in the same organization thanked us and we didn’t have to explain or rationalize anything. Does this mean I judge?-Well I do but not because of religion but by how you treat other human beings. We have a big rainbow of background in our troupe and although everyone is doing their own thing, I think we’re all in line of the ethic of “don’t be a douchebag.” But it can cost you friends, associates and maybe even your position. But honestly, long-term, who wants to be part of a community who can’t be kind to one another? In our troupe, I personally try to make our tent/group a mini-refuge so that even if the outside circumstances are not great and it hits the fan, we can just come together and know we are safe with one another. (This can be hard when you get too many refugees at an event, but another blog post) It’s perfectly okay to say. “Don’t do that in front of or to me.” Or “That makes me uncomfortable.”

Stealth personal attacks. This is so very, very hard. When you are hit with the 2×4 of crazy-making it’s quite the experience. I have at least four friends who will never, ever work at a faire again and their current communities rejoice to have them. Their detractors did not gain one single thing by cutting these people down and it was like trying to harness stardust-they were left with a handful of glitter and the faires lost something wonderful. Their envy, spitefulness and deeds just put another dark place in the world and they gained NOTHING, not even bragging rights. In my own experience, I turned to my friends and husband and had to try and redirect my energy positively. To be honest, for a few years it was pretty much vented into revenge success-I’ll show them! It meant that I wasn’t actively swimming in negativity. (I was peeved for years, but I refused to give in to being like my attackers)

Here’s what I say about that:

  • It doesn’t matter why, it is about them, not you. (Seriously don’t try to figure out the why)
  • You can calculate the worth of a man by the number of his enemies, and the importance of a work of art by the harm that is spoken of it.-Gustave Flaubert
  • It’s about your happiness, not theirs so they can suck it
  • Time will show who is who
  • Legal issues are best handled by the professionals (police, therapists, security)
  • If you are having personal problems over and over, maybe it isn’t other people.

More on that “maybe it is you.” I evoke a certain enmity in people-and my troupe fellows confirm it for me. We have a certain sub-contractor who could be in the middle of the Mohave desert, playing with his own toes and over the dunes, completely surprising us all, someone from a popular organization will challenge him to a duel. That’s not a personal failing, we’ve both just accepted it is “a thing.” And we do our best to diffuse it with a “whatever.” And do conflict avoidance. He drinks a lot of water, I suck on Altoids (Keeps my breath fresh and my mouth shut!) But if you don’t have long-term friends or people avoid you, or drama follows you like a second skin…you need to take steps to stop whatever you are doing that swirls that mess around and gets it other people. If you need to mutter a mantra or write a series of “computer voice” statements on a notecard or just picture Tahiti in your head-you do it. You and everyone around you will be thankful, long-term.

It’s just the festival and you can go home. It’s hard not to be personally invested and the experience is both better and worse if you are. If you aren’t feeling it, you’re probably not on fire as a performer either. But that fire is better spent on the people who love you, your passions, your accomplishments and personal improvement. If someone is awful to you, they have done you a favor, they have told you, straight up, that they are not worth your time. Move on from there.

Don’t join in. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a simple case of miscommunication or something even more miniscule turn into a mob-driven witch hunt. You can simply say
“I don’t have all the facts.”
And let it go. When the so-called saviors have burned everything to the ground and destroyed everything around them, often there is a tiny but significant
“Whoops!” In their wake.
I’m not saying you can’t have an opinion, but if you are not the impacted or involved party, then you are just an ass playing out some ego need. (Write that on your notecard, it’s important) Also, if you watched them turn on someone, next time that someone could be YOU, have fun storming the castle…

Don’t think they are playing chess when it is just whack-a-mole. Or as I like to write on my notecard ”do not attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.” People are dumb animals, they get bitten by a fly and kick their neighbors-just like a mule-action/reaction. This goes back to the ‘don’t try to figure out why’ I mentioned earlier. I had one of the nastiest things at the faire to happen to me, and one of the ‘masterminds’ tried to friend me on Facebook years later. A friend shook her head and laughed at me. Then said
“She’s stabbed so many people in the back that she’s lost track.”
So much truth.

I’m not saying invite your detractors over for some scones and tea, but often they are less Machiavelli and more Moe of the three stooges. And be wary, they could be carrying a 2×4.

You are your own best friend and you can be the goofiest, cheesiest faire participant ever but you never deserve to be slammed or drawn into the stupidity of faire drama. We are still individuals and when you see a stampede happening-just don’t participate. You are there for your own purposes and to be part of a (productive) team. Although you probably have a good heart, be cognizant of the WHY you are getting involved, consult your brain-it does more than keep your body running. Take care of you, think things through and you will be glad you did.

How Rude!

 As I’ve written in the past, we’ve seen poachers, hecklers and bad, competitive acts but I am going to let my partner talk about something that is so utterly tacky that I had to hear it twice to make sure I wasn’t just hallucinating:
In his own words:

I like doing the shows we do in Pensacola and Mobile. The main reason is because the people who run the shows are very nice people. One of the reasons I feel this way is they often go out of their way to do the right thing.

The main organizer is a lawyer and we get VERY specific contracts that give minimum number of performers, minimum number of shows per day, minimum number of minutes per show and all sorts of other things.

But, despite all the legal paperwork, when you actually get there he is much more “do a good show and I don’t care” attitude. He doesn’t count how many people I have on stage, how many minutes I run or anything like that.  He just wants the crowd to be happy.

The contract also says we won’t do any other shows within 100 miles. Not normally a problem for us living 1300 miles away, but a couple of years ago we got a call from a mother who wanted some sword fighting at her son’s party there in Pensacola. I called to see if I could be let out of our contract for that.

“A ten year old’s birthday party?” the organizer asked. “OF COURSE you should be there! Don’t disappoint a kid! Stop by here first and I’ll give you a bunch of discount coupons for all of his friends and a free ticket for him and his mom.”

We did the birthday party show. The kids were happy. There are lots of other examples like that over the last 13 years we’ve done shows for those people.

I guess one of the other towns in the local area wanted to have a faire like this one. They contacted the organizer and asked to meet with him to discuss it.

“We can run it for you if you want,” the organizer said. “Pay us a fee to produce it and we can provide you with acts, vendors and anything else you would need.”
The town turned him down and is now having their own faire anyhow.

OK. I understand that happens. They don’t want to pay someone else to run their faire and think they can do it themselves. I’ve got no problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is this:

  • The town sent their person who is going to organize it to the faire we were doing.
  • They dressed as a king with a crown and all.
  • Their tabard was a big sign saying the date, time and place of their faire.
  • And, the guy went from booth to booth, act to act, trying to recruit people to come be at his faire.

It’s one thing not to hire someone to do something for you. It’s another to go to that person’s thing wearing a billboard of what you wouldn’t hire him to do and try and hire what he has away.

That’s just rude.

The faire organizer we work with could have gone to people and waved the contract at them.

Instead he went and talked with people. He explained why they had the clause and why it would hurt his faire if folks he had contracted to be unique started doing other events nearby. But, he ended with “you have to do what you have to do to get your paycheck.” Not “I’ll sue you for breach of contract” or anything like it.

So, I still like and respect the guy we work for. I don’t think highly of the folks at this other faire.

 

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Image source

I wrote a blog about how performers view patrons and I feel I have to follow up with a “How we sometimes view other performers.” Often, we don’t because we are out  busting a hump to make our own performance happen. If you make the “notice” list I’m talking about here, well, it was nice seeing ya!

I am going to use a real-life example because they illustrated this so perfectly. One year at a small but lucrative faire, there was a group that came in for low-to-nothing cost. We had been doing the faire for about two years at that point when a group I will simply call “the Prima Donnas” or PD for short (Pain in the Derrieres, if you prefer) did something like we do but not really-it was noisy and involved physical skill. The first way they caught our attention was to complain about stage placement. You see this was a large field and we were given one of the long ends as our site. We’d set up the tent, made up a ring and posted a blackboard with our stage times. The other large groups would work out from the OTHER end. This group had arrived late to the fest and so, a lot of ground had been claimed. But we understood and said we’d be happy to share our ring when the time came. But you see they did not communicate within their own group so the following happened: confusion on where they were performing, when (which led to some indignity when they tried to use our stage on our scheduled times) and how much space their show took up. Still, we are easy-going, figured out a solution and moved on.

Following up,  they decided to have a public confrontation with one of our subcontractors about the manner in which he attracted crowd as his loud method was “too similar to our show.” Okay then. If our noise-maker is competing with your show, we are delighted to stop. I personally felt it said more about the quality of their show than we should know but, there you are. And this was topped off with that most heinous of sins…trying to steal our crowd during a show.

Folks, if you ever want to make the hate list of another act, you should either distract an audience during someone’s show or interrupt the acts’ tip time. That act may well do something dire to you while all the other performers cheer and offer suggestions. Bring the marshmallows, Martha, because there will be a bonfire.

So PD had not endeared themselves to us or to any of the other performers. And just when I thought they could not add another tickbox to Things You Don’t Do…

Another bit of background about this faire site, it was functionally a cul-de-sac. After our first year of being trapped for an hour in the parking area, we had learned to park outside the site in another lot and just hand-carry what we needed overland and get out of there. Other acts, staff, etc. found themselves trapped by one vehicle packing up and the attempts to leave could take hours. Had we really been charitable we could have warned them (they had light equipment) but after spending the day with them, we figured it wasn’t worth taking up any more of their precious time and air. So as we passed them, carrying our bags and satchels of swords and tent bits they whined about walking to their vehicle and complained about how their nice faire garb had become all muddy. Huh, mud at a faire ground, who would have thought it?

And we overheard one of them ask his companion why we weren’t helping and his friend told him that [equipment] wasn’t that heavy and maybe they’d asked enough already. One of my troupe-mates leaned over to me, under the bag on his shoulder and observed
“Don’t think we’ll be seeing them next year.”
And he was right, we never saw that group anywhere, ever again.

Be reassured folks, that we have seen *members of that group* involved in other events, so no, they were not lost and never seen again. Or had anything dire done to them.

But let’s summarize:

  • Don’t assume  you are the only act at a faire (or at least don’t act like it)
  • Don’t be a jerk to your fellow acts, we are in this together so try to swallow your bile and wear a smile, at least for a few hours.
  • Do be sure to know where YOU need to be and what YOU are doing because other than the organizer or performer representative, you’re asking too much of anyone else. 
  • Never, ever compete with someone’s act and audience at their stage. There is a Leprechaun in FL who has a bounty on his head, (only kind of kidding.)
  • Do be prepared and informed, or at least appear to be. Ask questions if you don’t know.

And finally, it’s an outdoor event. If you are not prepared to deal with the elements, you’re in the wrong business.

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Wish I had a one-size-fits-all answer for you but this is difficult. You know the old conundrum “experience needed but how do I get experience if I can’t get a job?”

We can only speak from our past and share what we know.

You are your own best publicity machine. What does this mean? It means that you have many, many, social contacts and I’m not talking about social media. Do you go to church? Is your Uncle/Aunt a scout leader? Are your coworkers having a party? Maybe you are all out together and you have some pictures on your phone (and maybe a business card) Does your local town have a festival? We have one troupe member who has some health issues but is a job-getting MACHINE for us. She is so good that a number of people (not in the troupe) tried to take credit for some the jobs she managed to get for us. What does she do? She chats people up, tells them she is amazing and she does really interesting things. And she carries business cards.

Business Cards; Are you shy? Then business cards let you be a publicity ninja.  Every pizzeria, community board and person too slow to say “wait” has been *whoosh* hit with a business card. I am sure that some of these get thrown away but we try to get as many out as we can. We carry a box in the car so if at practice someone says “Hey, I am out of business cards.” it is easily fixed. Some recommendations: Two fonts-easily legible. I mean it, TWO FONT STYLES. Can you italicize? Yes. I even have several styles for the troupe featuring four-color pictures of what we do and everyone is empowered to say “Phoenix Swords is awesome and this is what I do with them!” (Note to leaders; you should have a set of guidelines for what is good and not-so-good to discuss but that’s another blog) 50% of what is on that card should be ways to find you. We use UPrinting  and MooCards

Publicity Packets-there are expensive and time-consuming. You would send this to high-end faires, town committees and large corporations. I would recommend About.com  as a great starting resource for how to do this.

I reiterate NEVER EVER WORK FOR FREE but you can busk for tips, get advertised in a flyer, be given coupons and love but this makes it clear you have a service and are not a volunteer. That said, charities, schools, scouts, and more have hired us for services and goods if not straight-up money.

Networking; this is what I did in my day job to get lists of resources when I was in tech support and it’s a good habit to do with your faire business.  It gets you, your name and what you do out there and you learn, meet new friends and business associates. This means joining forums, posting on them as well as a HOST of other media. Let me give this caution however, you need to treat this like a part time job so don’t sign up for more than you can read. And DO be encouraging to others, forums/communities are like pot luck, everyone contributes.  And network at faires, we keep a cooler and snacks in our tent and encourage other acts to stop by-you will notice merchants do this as well. A local version of this is the Stone Soup Ceilidh

Have a good work ethic and remember you are ALWAYS onstage. We do our best to be polite, respectful, helpful and prepared. We don’t always succeed at all of the above but do our best every day. Over-deliver on the goods and you will almost always be invited back to events. If you aren’t, chalk it up to a learning experience and tweak how you do things.

Finally, don’t limit yourself on venue. As I’ve said in a number of posts (and probably more to come) everything you read, see, experience, watch is an opportunity.  We have done a number of birthday parties, workshops and conventions.  We own light sabers and can swap in Star Wars for War of the Roses. And your members should be doing self-development as well. Over the winter, when outdoor festivals are limited, we do development activities or in my own case, write and work on routines. If an organizer asks “so what’s new?” it’s good to have an answer for them! And self-care, be sure not to burn yourself out-it can be frustrating to be out shaking your money-maker when it seems like others in your group are just sitting back and showing up. Getting gigs is everyone’s responsibility and yes, some will be better at it than others. And if you are in a larger group, one must take care that the level of expectation is the same. Our troupe had some tough times when some members requested that we do as many as possible and then reneged on their obligations. Communication is key! You CAN do too many gigs but most groups don’t have that issue. But if you do, share the love and pass the ones you turn down with a recommendation for someone else. Hopefully they will do the same for you.

And now with a final truth from RuPaul
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