Subject: RenFair FAQ v.1.2 (regular posting)
From: Chris Laning
Date: Nov 1997

FAQ - - - - RENAISSANCE FAIRES - - - - v.1.2

Welcome to the RenFair FAQ. This FAQ's purpose is to help people new to Faires by pointing to other useful resources (books, mailing lists, other newsgroups, Web pages...). This file hopes to answer some Frequently Asked Questions about Renaissance Faires, both for visitors and for potential participants.

Where is it? When does it run? How do I get there? How much does it cost? What is the weather like?


Hard to answer, because each Faire has its own personality. Some are more "fantasy" oriented, set "in the days of old, when knights were bold," with abundant princesses, castles, jousting and feasting. Some are (or attempt to be) serious attempts at "living history," focusing on the re-creation of a particular time, place, characters and/or events. Virtually all Faires are somewhere in between. Many incorporate both history *and* hilarious takeoffs on history -- my own home Faire, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Northern California, includes both a Queen's Court which holds regular Privy Council sessions (historical) and a current stage show called "Manly Men in Tights," which is sheer silliness.

For your entertainment, Faires usually offer food booths, game booths, theater in both stage and street, dance exhibitions, and of course merchants with Things to Sell--jewelry, hats, aromatic oils, costumes, toys, herbs, house furnishings, ad infinitum. Some may demonstrate "period" crafts, others just create beautiful, tempting things out of their own wonderful creativity.

Most Faires are weekend events, ranging from one or two days for the smallest Faires to eight- or nine-weekend runs for the biggest. They may range from half a dozen actors to a costumed "cast" of over 1,000, and from a handful of merchants and booths to more than a hundred of all kinds. Most Faires charge admission, ranging from a dollar or two to the $15-20 range, and for most Faires that includes admission to all the stage shows. Some Faires are non-profit; some are fund-raisers for Worthy Causes; some are run by for-profit corporations.

Other than that, Faires vary all over the map. If you have seen one Faire, you have definitely NOT seen them all. In fact, many people are shocked when they walk unsuspectingly into a "Faire of a different color" -- a large Faire when they've only been to small ones, or a more fantasy-oriented Faire when they're used to the more historically oriented. Experienced Faire-goers learn to enjoy the variety.


It's not required by any means, though many people find it fun. Most Faire folk are well accustomed to seeing travellers, visitors, customers, guests, patrons (whatever the local term is) wearing such "odd" clothing as shorts, jeans, T-shirts and halter tops. If you look like you'd like to "play," they may tease you a little about it ("Alack, good sir, that the robbers who assaulted you did leave you with but half your clothing!") but it is all good humored.

At most Faires you will be welcomed whatever you are wearing. You will see wizards, monks, gypsies, barbarians, knights, assorted clerics, and perhaps a Klingon or two at almost any Faire. On the other hand, many of the more "historical" Faires appreciate it even more if you try to dress in a more authentic costume, as it adds to the atmosphere they are trying to create. For more information on costuming, see the FAQ - Costuming for Renaissance Faires (v.1.1).

The same goes for talking "forsoothly." You needn't talk Olde Englisshe if you don't want to, but many people find it fun to try. Again, most Faire actors will be happy to talk with you whatever dialect you happen to be speaking, though they will often not understand you if you ask them about computers! ("What kind of pewter is that?")


Most Faire customers are not used to seeing real, live people up close who are pretending to be someone from another world or another time. Usually entertainment is at a safe distance, up on a stage or safely behind a TV or movie screen. Often visitors don't know what to say to actors who are suddenly only two feet away! Here are some hints.

* Some good starting questions are "Who are you?" and "What are you doing?" If they are wearing funny clothes or demonstrating some obscure craft, these are probably the questions they would just *love* to answer.

* You can also ask where they got the materials, who taught them how to do what they're doing (milk a goat, make chain mail, spin wool, etc.) and what they will do when they are through with their current task.

* If a costumed actor asks you a question, it's an invitation to "play" along with them. Don't feel obliged to stick to the truth in your answer -- make something up! ("Why, I am on my way to Nottingham Fair to buy me a horse!")

* If you don't want to "play," just shake your head no, and walk on. Good actor manners dictates that they not pursue you if you make it clear you don't want to participate right now.

* Good customer manners include thinking before asking obvious questions: "Is that real food?" when they are sitting there eating it. (More than one costumed, nursing mother has been asked, "Is that a real baby?") Actors get very tired of answering, "Aren't you hot? Did you make your costume yourself? Is that corset tight? Are you the Queen?" In fact, one group made a button to wear that simply said, "Yes, yes, yes, no."

* For actors: If you're a hawker, don't touch customers physically when you're trying to get them over to your booth. It makes people uncomfortable when people assume that kind of familiarity. In the same way, if you're a customer, don't touch or grab the actors unless specifically invited.

* At most Faires, actors try hard to stay in character. Part of the fun for actors is speaking in Faire accent (Elizabethan or whatever) and being consistent with the character they are playing. It spoils the fun if a visitor asks, "Are you a computer programmer?" Equally, it spoils the visitor's fun if a costumed peasant asks what's the score of the Raiders game. 'Nuff said.


Some things to remember that make Faire more pleasant, whether you're an actor or a customer:

* At a summer Faire, wear a sun hat and sun screen. Actors in historical costume don't wear sunglasses (it spoils the atmosphere) but anyone can wear a broad-brimmed hat and be careful not to spend too much time in the sun.

* Wear good, supportive shoes. You will walk a lot, especially at a large Faire.

* Bring a mug to drink out of, and drink lots of water. Most Faires are dusty, you are probably getting more exercise than usual, and you will dehydrate quickly. Soda, alcoholic drinks and coffee all dehydrate you further. Drink lots and LOTS of just plain water. If you bring a dog or other animal, remember they need lots of water too.

* Smoke only in designated areas. This is both for fire safety outdoors and because many people are allergic to cigarette smoke and need to be able to avoid it.

* Pick up after yourself and don't leave garbage lying around. Actors are there to act, not to clean up after you.

* Let people have their space; don't wander backstage or into private housing areas if you don't belong there. There's plenty to do at Faire in the areas open to everyone.

* Pace yourself and don't get overtired. Rest when you need to.

* Have fun; remember we're here to have a festival. If we have fun, so will the people around us.


Additions, corrections and comments are welcome, as are suggestions for more areas where FAQ files would be helpful. Please contact:
O "Mistress Christian," a.k.a. Chris Laning
| CLaning@igc.apc
+ Davis, California

1999 Notice portions of this faq has been updated in regards to the current state of communication by the SCRIBE Network. It is pending C Laning's approval.