Monday, October 27, 2014
I adore medieval faires and renaissance festivals. Within the gates of these quirky, raucous gatherings we find the most extraordinary and eclectic collection of talent and brains outside of Comicon. And yet, the faire folk are often misunderstood. It all starts with a love of art and of language. I have been a fan of these festivals since college. I have dated fencers and stage fighters, have worked as a tavern wench, and have dressed as everything from a royal, to a wench, to a Whovian time lord (remember Ramana?). Here are some observations that need to be noted. Renfolk are smart and talented. Some of the performers are locals who have day jobs as lawyers and real estate agents; their work on the weekends is an artistic escape whether they are acting, or are working as vendors in a craft booth. Other performers are professional actors who travel from faire to faire throughout the year on a schedule; they work diligently on their stage routines and at developing the “characters” that will entertain audiences. In both cases, the majority of these people have college degrees and are making a living doing what they love. I knew a man who worked 20 years selling medical equipment for a large corporation. When he retired from sales, he bought an old school bus, threw on a tunic and started selling custom-made boots at the faire. The work allowed him to travel the country, make a living, and have some fun. He met people from all around the world, and didn’t have to worry about dry cleaning or about shaving. What a life. Some of the smartest people I have met work at the faire. A few weeks ago, I toured a faire which was new to me. The level of writing for the scripts was astounding. Even more impressive were the conversations I overheard as I passed through the crowds. Philosophy, History, Physics, Language...everything was a topic for discussion. Even politics and world events. From pirates! And perhaps the greatest gift these people offer us is a reverence for Language and communication. Through comedy, song, music, dance, and art, these wonderful enthusiasts and professionals are preserving something that continues to fade as we become a tech-dependent society, heads bowed over our phones. Thumbs meet eye-contact. For eight hours a day (sometimes much longer), these performers are not texting, they are talking, making a connection with the crowd. They are communicating with words, rather than initials and emoticons. Of course this does not surprise me. I have long known that the ren-fest circuit is a home for creativity and for intelligence that just does not fit into a suit or cubicle. However, so many suit and cubicle people spy the colorful time travelers as the characters they portray. Books and covers, people...take a look and find the story beneath the colorful brocade and tights. Within the renaissance faire, there is a renaissance of thought and talent. A round of applause for all the wonderful, brilliant performers and artisans to have the courage to take center stage and take a chance.