The 2012 faire season is upon us. The Guild of St. George, Inc., Northern Chapter, has just had its first rehearsal meeting and season kickoff party in Concord. I'm happy to say it was extraordinarily well-attended, and that I detect a great deal of enthusiasm among the ranks.
Last season was extremely busy. We were in such high demand, and had so many performances, in addition to all of our bi-monthly rehearsals, that we pretty much exhausted our people's spare time and energy. I was continually frustrated that our rehearsals were generally not as well-attended as I would like, and so were some of the performances.
Therefore, in order to inflict less of a burden on the cast, this year we decided not to book any performances until Valhalla Faire in South Lake Tahoe in early June, and have only a few "brush-up" rehearsals between then and Folsom at the end of the season. We have "front-loaded" the majority of our meetings, holding them in the months prior to our performances so that we will be a well-prepared ensemble. However, we are enforcing our rehearsal minimum, and have instituted a "gate list fee" for people who have not met their minimum requirements.
We've also become serious about collecting guild dues, not only because we need the ready cash on hand, but because we believe that people might take the whole thing more seriously if they had a little buy-in.
It is our hope that these measures will increase attendance at both rehearsals, and performances.
You may notice that I use somewhat "theatrical" language when I refer to the group's activities. This is intentional. Many people in the faire culture forget what a Renaissance Faire is: an elaborate theatrical performance, an interactive play, an immersive environment. For many, it is something else: a chance to be with their adopted families, to let their hair down, to participate in what they see as an exciting counter-culture, to trawl for potential romantic partners, to show-off their costuming prowess.
It is all of those things and more, but they are all the happy by-products of our primary mission, which is to transport our audience to another place and time. Therefore, I avoid "faire-lingo" in favor of the language of the stage. We wear "costumes" rather than "garb", we are "onstage" or "backstage", we have "characters" rather than "personas", we have an "audience" rather than "patrons" or "guests". I think of the Guild as a "troupe" or "company", rather than a "guild", and we "rehearse" rather than "meet". The difference may seem trivial, but I think it keeps in people's minds what our intent is, or ought to be.
Because we are, after all, a theatrical production, attendance by the entire cast at rehearsals is vital. Your ordinary, volunteer-based community theatre production, which plays maybe five performances usually rehearses for two or three months prior, often two or three times a week. Failure to attend is virtually unthinkable, as everyone needs to know their lines, blocking, cues, reactions, and be comfortable working with their fellow cast members.
Yet in the faire world, where some pretty hard-acquired theatrical skills are required to put on a decent show, the amount of training and rehearsal that actors get is pretty minimal, and sadly, it shows. That's why our troupe is one that makes a difference.