Very often, producers and participants of these themed events we call Renaissance Faires lose sight of what the event actually represents. The following is what I wrote as a definition for the event I direct in Sebastopol. It's a statement of intent which all participants are required to read, understand, and use as a basis for their activities:
In old England, towns were given royal charters to hold faire on certain holidays such as Saint's Days. These were festive occasions at which much business was done and much merriment was made. They were the social and commercial highlight of the year when people were able to obtain goods they might not otherwise have had available to them and gather together to celebrate in fellowship. The local alehouses shut their doors and moved their operations to the faire, and some laws were relaxed for the duration.
A Renaissance Faire is a depiction of just such an event; a holiday fair held near a village or on its common. The intent is to create an immersive "time travel" experience which not only entertains the attending patrons, but informs and enlightens them about the world of the 16th century. The streets are alive with the sights, sounds, entertainment, seasonal rituals and most importantly, the people who would be present at a holiday fair; the citizens of the local community from all walks of life, free of their laborious daily routines, celebrating this extraordinary occasion; traders from afar coming to sell their wares or make business deals with the local merchants; young lovers flirting and chasing one another through the lanes; diplomats and dignitaries following the train of the Queen hoping to secure an audience with her. Handcrafted items offered for sale to the public and hearty period food enhance the experience.
As much as possible the patrons are included as part of the show - as yet another traveler who's come to enjoy the pleasures of the fair. What we offer is something lacking in modern life; the opportunity to do more than passively receive entertainment through an electric box; at the fair the audience is able interact with its entertainment - to engage in make-believe in a lively, dynamic and safe environment wherein they have an effect on the outcome of any encounter. They laugh and play and lose themselves in the illusion without realizing they're actually being taught some history in the process.
|Joris Hoefnagel, Fete at Bermondsey c1569|