Thursday, May 10, 2012


When we go to see a theater performance, we quietly agree to leave our daily lives behind and “believe” that what we are seeing on stage is real. The curtain opens, it is day, it closes and reopens and it is night ten years later. We see flats painted like architecture and nature and we can believe that in the context of the story we are witnessing unfold that these things are real. One of the reasons we can do this is because the actors on stage believe they are real for us. They are in a house, on a country road, in a space ship, all because they say they are. We are no longer in a building downtown, only yards from our parked car, we are inside the universe created by the artists that are puting on this play. A Renaissance Faire is no different. The success of your guests experience depends on how much YOU believe it is real, and how willing you are to avoid references to that world they left behind. A Renaissance Faire is a “pop-up” city that does its very best to surround its audience in the illusion of another time. All participants are actors in this unique setting and their willingness to play along will encourage their customers to play with them. This isn’t real history, it is pretend theatrical history, but the more your participants know about the events and realities of the time they are portraying, the easier it will be for them to broadcast that to their audience.


Not all Faires do this, but I would argue that it was the “secret sauce” that made the Renaissance Pleasure Faires such a success over so many decades. Workshops are most often offered during the weekends prior to opening. This is a time when many crafts and concessions owners are present erecting their booths, and performers rehearsing their acts. These workshops are mandatory, but can be a fun way to get your head into the time period you are agreeing to participate in. These are often short, cover such things as a quick history lesson, basic steps in country dance, and a few rules for how to speak convincingly with a “Basic Faire Accent” or BFA. As you can imagine with the energy and effort everyone is going through to get their piece of the event up and ready, taking time to take a few workshops can receive a fair bit of push back, but I believe that these little refresher courses really do add up to a much better event. If nothing more it reassure that cowboy leather craftsman that merely saying “Good day good sir” and “May I help you mistress” are often enough to get by. It also makes it easier to relate to the events unfolding around you if you know whom the players are and what their roles are in the time period. At one time my wife and I booed a participant we thought was dressed as a Spaniard (the bad guys), only to later find out he was actually Sir Walter Raleigh (not a bad guy). Blush.

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