People come to Faire to be entertained. Some do well know our delights and amusements. Some did hear from others and would see, hear and taste for themselves. Some be curious and adventuresome, but know not what to expect.
An we would our private fantasies continue (what e'er faire character you do fancy yourself) then pains we must take, that all visitors leave with firm resolve to return and sense of discovery so compelling they must tell all of the wonders they did find.
Now forsooth, when asked, "What of the faire?", most remember in a general way, the costumes and pageantry, the singers, dancers, and actors and shire folk, and recall no detail. Instead they relate with glittering detail and shining words all they did eat and drink. Even so, though some try, our customers spend not the entire day eating and drinking. An what they saw, heard and did, please them not, meat and drink become less savory. Then doth appear an uneasy thought the day were ill spent. Given a truly distasteful experience, they be lost forever along with all others they may counsel. How then to create the impressions that bring people back? In sooth there be no single answer, for they do all differ, one from another. But thou wilt not err, an thy guide be the Golden Rule! Think of thyself. How wouldst thou be treated and spoken to? What would make thee feel welcome and at ease? What would please thee and make thee desirous to return? What would make thee bring many others? Then think of thy friends, relatives, and co-workers. What would they?
I have found some few things that people mark and remember. Most universal, YOU DID NOTICE THEM AND INVITE THEM TO PLAY. In this, the Faire is unique. Faire is not a spectator sport. This is not TV. We can respond to them, even touch them and shake hands!
Our modern society frowns on commerce between strangers. Seldom it is we share news and gossip, joke, or laugh with one we meet by the way. But, here we do surround and mingle with our audience. And they are invited to be an active part of the entertainment. Consider the dance in front of main gate at opening each morning. If I do judge correctly the ever increasing numbers of well dressed visitors, they be sore envious of our play and would fain join our sport.
Now in sooth, those of 16th century England did both fear and distrust the foreigner, But!!! This be our Spring/Harvest Celebration! and Market Day! Have you not heard the cry "The Glove is up!" Are we not all under the Queen's protection? And are we not curious? What wonders do these travelers say? What news and tales do they bring?
So invite them to play. Politely introduce yourself: "Good Gentles, I be Gaffer Applewright, a scholar" (or miller, serving maid, yeoman, daughter of Frank the merchant, Spinster, Midwife, Goodwife and helpmate to John the tanner...) and inquire after the purpose of your visitor. "What be thy business, for I have ne'er seen such a hat (shirt, shoe, belt, what ever)? How didst thou make it? Is it thy badge of office?" Marvel at their reply (...Pro..gram..mer?..Didst thou say Programmer?...) then on to explain how we identify classes by their clothing, sumptuary laws etc. Oft times it is best to greet those who walk in a group, for the individual therein doth feel protected and you may approach.
Watch for anyone looking at the map of the faire, then look over their shoulders until noticed and ask "May I aid thee with thy chart?" If you know not the answer to a question, direct them unto the info booths. No matter, you have started a conversation and might continue it by asking them questions about themselves, offering advice on plays or entertainment, (Fowl Tails be a most wondrous entertainment) and faire news (I did hear that the Queen in progress doth visit the Maypole this day) and bits of gossip (I did hear me that Jack the taylor be called to answer at Pye Powder Court. For he did sell the pig that did live with John the miller. Do you know of Pye Powder Court? Aye we do find it most excellent source of gossip, scandal and amusement (Then describe the court, which does not get the attention it deserves.)
"At Faire, there be such variety of amusement that a single day has not the hours to hear it all. Have ye e'er seen such a faire? "
"There be the Scots camp, where one can easily spend half a day if one hath the wit to ask the Scots of their industries, homes, crafts, arms, history, and customs, and hath the eyes, nose and ears to appreciate the answers."
"There be the Guild of St. Ives, the merchant's guild, where one may learn of commerce. "
"There be the John Barleycorn/Greenman Inn, where we do take our ease to game and gossip with our neighbors while the Lord of Misrule doth rule in jest. "
"There be the Washer Women where one may learn the latest scandal. "
"There be a Master Mariner who would teach navigation and the ways of the sea, jugglers who would teach the mystery of the slow ball, and schools where ye may learn gunnery, corn dolly weaving, basket making, spinning, weaving.... "
"There be singers, musicians, story tellers, magicians, jugglers and jesters. "
"There be the Military, the Horse Tourney, the Middle Class, the Friends of Faire, the Mongers,"...and on and on.
"There be some four or more stages where excellent entertainment may be heard." (The environmental areas are stages, as well as is any spot where you may chose to play.) "There be o'er a hundred merchants who would advise, bejewel, dress, arm, wine and dine the traveler. Entertain with diverse games, and rides. And bedazzle with quaint and marvelous, crafts, curios and objects of art the like of which have ne'er been seen."
Learn something of some aspect of the faire, then weave it into thy conversations and bring attention to it. Go to a booth, environmental area, individual or group and ask what they represent and what they would a visitor should know of them. 'Chipping under Oakwood' is a small town, some 50 to 80 families, and each one of us must needs know the business of all. Futher it doth aid thine own effort to explain thy character or trade.
Profitable encounter can start with no more than "And does the Faire please you this day?" At this, visitors will stop, smile, say "Yes," and wait for your next comment. Those who will not stop, be in urgent need of a privy or be unwilling to share and there be no profit to stay them. Continue with "What then doth please ye most?" Consider the answer. Tell of yourself. Ask if they did sample thy favorite amusement. Recommend a show, a ride, a vendor, a food booth. Warn of the mongers, the Puritans, the Sheriff, the Friar who would a bit of the true cross sell. Ask their opinion of Jesters Grove, the mystic readers, and so on. Ask if they have seen the ale wench at ale four? There be none like her. The gossip of the washer women be scandalous! And what news did they say? Was not the Tournament of Horse magnificent?
When Queen Elizabeth enters the conversation, remember her popularity rating is near 100%. She is Gloriana! The most beautiful, the wisest, the greatest, the bravest, the kindest, the most generous etc. etc. etc. Even when we do not approve of things she must to do in her official capacity, we loved her and fear and respect her as monarch, and symbol of ENGLAND, and we are fiercely proud to be English and her subjects. And so it be with near all Englishmen, even those harmed by her justice.
Recall that no conspiracy which assumed it had general support (Catholic or otherwise) that sought to depose Elizabeth, succeeded, for such support did not exist. When egomaniac Essex came close to mounting a successful attack on the throne, his followers melted in the face of sour London disapproval. When Stubbs wrote that child bearing would endanger the Queen and thereby spoke against the Queen's person, it did not matter that he sought to preserve her life. When you libeled royalty your right hand was forfeit. When judgment was executed, Stubbs did sweep off his hat with his remaining hand, and cry "God Save the Queen" afore he did swoon. This is England. 159(?). Lay it on thick. You can not over do it. Long may she reign!
Visitors are usually puzzled by the Bones Band. It serves well to tell them "This be the Dance Macabre. It doth remind us that we be here but a little while. Eat, Drink and be Merry, for tomorrow you may join our merry band. Forsooth is not the great death still among us? Did it not rise again last year in London?" (However watch the kids. I have seen them badly frightened by the Bones Band. Counsel their parents and point out "At such a tender age no border doth divide the fantastic and the real." and assure the child that this is no more than a mask and costume such as they wear on Hallowe'en.) (Unfortunately some kids are scared of their own Halloween costumes.)
A character that fits you well, is easily remembered and comfortable to wear, doth much ease the commerce of the day, as upon occasion it even maketh your unexpected reply correct, without a conscious thought!
Who art thou? This be 16th Century England and the person upon thy gate pass did vanish at the gate. Thy character needeth not great depth; encounters in the street seldom last o'er a minute or so. Mine own "Apple" yarn takes less than two. Thou wilt not be questioned in detail, unless thou wearest a distinctive costume. Then 'tis wise to wear a ready explanation, who thou art, and mayhap somewhat of thy trade. Thou shouldst not have to think about who thou art, how thou wert raised or by whom. Work this all out in advance, but keep the tale simple. 'Tis seldom needed, for most visitors will not pry, but if thou canst call on thy creation without hesitation, thou dost add a measure of depth and reality to thy conversation. Make sure thou canst repeat the same tale twice! Use a model, thine own family or that of another, or a book with which thou'rt familiar.
If thou be questioned about thy pretended trade and forsooth know it not, remember much technology be a mystery taught only to guild or family members. Be indignant when asked to reveal trade secrets. "My master would have me whipped were I to tell ye," or "My mother forbade I should e'er speak of it to strangers".
Just as our clothing appears authentic only at a distance, our characters need only 'appear' real. When pressed to reveal the machine stitching in your character, leave. 'Tis impolite of them to ask us to break character. If some one asks you where you work during the week, where do you really live etc., reply "Gramercy! I must away. Thou didst remind me I must meet my gossip (god-sib, i.e. good friend and sibling) at the Cross Keyes Inn!" (or whatever) And leave! Direct those questions your character cannot answer to Friends of Faire or an info booth.
You need little material to meet and greet. Keep in mind one of the truly great magicians of our day who when complimented on his amazing performance, by a fellow magician replied "But I only know six tricks". (But they were executed flawlessly.) Be you 'prentice to the faire, I do think me 'twer better to polish one or two bits than try many poorly. With experience, improvision will suggest itself. If you find something that works use it again and again. By now I have cut some 6500 apples. It may bore you at times, but your audience changes as you turn about and their response will differ every time. Don't listen to yourself. Watch them.
If you have a distinctive bit, you will be remembered for it. But an 'Apple Trick' is not needed to make the day pleasant and memorable for some one. If you were pleasant, informative, helpful, entertaining, disgusting, amusing, or shocking (but not threatening) and gave an impression of genuine interest in the customer, both you and the faire will be remembered with favor.
I am ever sought by a score and more regular visitors who would hear my latest riddle. There be cripples, exhibitionists and visitors with unusual, bizarre or distinctive dress that return regularly. I have made a point of greeting them all. That a person is different, does not make them less worthy of the best entertainment you can provide. I do indeed much worry when I do not see the Devil, for without him the Puritans have no point. The man in the wheel chair, Don Quixote, the Lady in the Red Satin Dress, the Cat Women, the Gentlemen Adventurers, the Vikings and the Mongols. I greet them all.
If you wish to be rude, lewd, insulting, obnoxious, or disgusting, you may, but take care who you choose to play with. A few delight in trading insults. But visitors with children or dates may not care to look the fool. I shudder at the word 'turkey', or 'mark' or anything that indicates the person speaking looks down on our customers. There is no place at Faire for the ego trip, for those who would pleasure themselves by degrading the customer or use their skills to cause the customer embarrassment or loss of face.
If we spoke true 16th century Elizabethan few would understand us. The visitors expect to hear 16th century but will accept anything that is different. Some of us master the Basic Faire Accent sounds and can read a modern text while sounding very Elizabethan. If not, make an effort to master archaic sentence structure and word patterns. Invert the sequence on subject and verb. Throw in a few phrases such as "I think me" and "I be" a "thee" and "thou" and add an occasional "eth" (he maketh, she bringeth) and most believe ye the genuine article. (Gee, Martha, he sounds just like the book.) Mayhap they did read Shakespear or the King James Bible or heard recitation from these and similar sources. Whatever it is, it seems towork. I am occasionally asked "How long did it take you to learn to "talk like that?" (Answer: "I did learn at my mother's knee")
Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone. We are on stage! LAUGH! SMILE! Your attitude diffuses throughout the crowd and reflects back upon you. When you walk about with "My feet hurt, I'm hot, I itch, I stink, I need a bath, my head aches ..." written plainly on your face, 'tis no wonder the day be gray and none smile.
Try this. As you walk through a crowd make eye contact with some one, and SMILE! ...and marvel as the world does shine and smile in return.
Share the honor you feel in being a member of a parade. Make eye contact and smile. Wave and salute. Many who watch would dearly love to trade places with you. To be noticed and recognized by the parade is near like being in it when you know naught but the isolation of TV. Smile and be enthusiastic even when you don't make eye contact for someone you do not see is watching you. Our hobby horses are an excellent example of enthusiasm. As I walk along to the side, I hear laughter and praise when the hobbies prance and dance in the parade.
And above all ...
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CCCCCCCCCCCC Copyright 1997 Roger B. Russell CCCCCCCCCCCCCCC
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O Chris Laning
+ Davis, California