Saturday, June 16, 2012


When creating a booth it is often helpful to create a story that supports the wares you are selling, the food you are offering, the games you are presenting, or guild environment you are creating. Are you are poor vendor that builds his booth with twigs and branches, or a rich merchant that offers her wares out of a timber frame shop? Are you are candle maker that allows the public to enter your shop to create their own products, or a blacksmith demonstrating what a craftsman looks like when they work? Any personal story you can communicate with the design of your booth will only help your sales and the experience of your visitors. If you are a nomadic seller of merchandise scavenged from far off places, drape your booth with exotic rugs and textiles that look like they just came off the back of a camel. If you are dying fabric for clothing, include a few half barrels of colored water, or better yet actually dye fabric in your booth! Supporting your products, services, or performance space with elements that support its theme will add even more depth to your audience’s experience and encourage them to look, watch, and buy.

Experiencing the Faire from Behind a Counter

There are many ways to experience a Faire, one of my favorites is from behind the counter of a booth. Whether you are selling jewelry, turkey legs, ale, or souvenir maps, a place behind a counter affords you a unique window on the ebb and flow of people, costumes, and street entertainment. Having a booth means you have a home base from which to venture out from and safely return. You have a one-on-one relationship with many of your patrons, and when the Faire gets crowded, a place safe from the crush of humanity. Although you are technically working, you are also visiting guests, fellow participants, and best of all, playing. There is nothing so nice as to have friends sit with you in your own private living room, watching the spectacle of a Faire parading past.
Some of my fondest, and earliest experiences of the Faire was spent shoveling ice into glasses of tea and feeding them through a window to the counter help. As behind the scenes as this job might appear, I have a framed window of the Faire that allowed me to focus my experience on just a few yards of dusty street where I could watch all the faces of guests and participants as they came to the counter. One thing I also loved was seeing some of the better knows performers quietly drop their daylong roles, just long enough to order a drink, connect to the counter person, and then launch themselves back into the crowd. It was these moments that made me feel the most included in this much larger event, and yet I was just an ice shoveling individual sitting at the back of a booth.
This can also be true of participants that create a theatrical Inn-Yard, or Guild Yard. These are themed environments, often with seats, dinning tables, and structures that face out to the crowd. Actors and guild members Play the roles appropriate to the environment, and whether peasants or members of the Queen’s Court, they act as a living tableau. The only danger comes when a group so identifies with their own small universe of players that they forget or even ignore the audience separated by only a few hay bales or length of rope. Any opportunity to pull the audience in, if not physically emotionally, will only make your experience and theirs more enjoyable.

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