WIL Weekends 2 + 3

I work for the street cast of a local Renaissance festival. And many of us like to keep logs of things we learned over the weekends as they go by, called a W(hat) I L(earned). I’ll often add anecdotes of fun stories or things I’d like to remember when looking back later at the end of mine.

I missed writing one last weekend because I prioritized getting some sleep this last week over basically the entire rest of my life. It left quite a few things in the dust in unpleasant ways, but since I’m still a little tired even after spending almost all my free time asleep last week, that says something about how much I needed it.

 

  1. I don’t like doing only Sundays. I feel like I’m missing out, and a little out of the loop. People assume I’ve heard things that happen on Saturdays when I haven’t.

1a. I’m super grateful to have friends who remember that I’m not there and when reminded fill me in on important things.

1b. I still want to hear all of the stories.

 

  1. My energy fails pretty easily for several reasons:

2a. My disappointment with my current situation gets dinged pretty often and takes some wind out of my sails.

2b. All my emotional energy is being taken up by my real life issues, so any additional emotional energy that isn’t my character’s drains me quick.

2c. Issues with Faith.

2d. The weekend feels STUPID fast with only one day in it.

 

  1. On the subject of 2c, I’m not feeling my character much anymore.

3a. It’s a little frightening when all your own character bits bore yourself.

3b. I’m worried about the future because I don’t think I’ll be approved for the characters I want to play, and I don’t think I’d be happy staying where I am. If I’m right and my ideas are turned down, I don’t know what I’ll do next season.

3c. Yes, this is a concern coming up right now because a lot of my brain is consumed by how much I’m floundering with my character, so I’d really like to have a solid backup plan for next year so I can feel better about the future, even if this season isn’t going as well as I’d like.

 

  1. That being said, it’s not a bad feeling at all to help other peoples’ bits succeed.

4a. All my favorite stories lately center around other characters’ bits, and while that’s troubling for personal reasons, that doesn’t make the stories any less fantastic, or me any less happy to have been a part of them.

 

  1. Once, just once, I’d like someone to notice that my sweet, upright, concerned with rules and prettily dressed girl has a rosary MADE OUT OF SKULLS and ask her about it. Just once.

5a. I’m trying really hard to get to tell that story, but when I get to, it feels very forced like it’s super obvious that I’m an actor dying to tell an interesting story about my character. This makes me feel icky about it instead of happy.

 

  1. While I totally believe all the authoritative voices who say that the shoot-the-shit interactions are important, too, I don’t feel like I’ve done a good job unless I have given the patron a story to tell.

6a. I don’t feel like “some weird chick dressed in green talked to me, and it was cool” is a legit story.

6b. This isn’t a dig on patron conversations. This is a dig on conversations about nothing much at all.

 

  1. I’m aware of the reasons why and how reasonable it is, but it doesn’t make it feel any better to feel more on the edges of SAPA due to my absence.

7a. This will get better. I know the reasons why, I know it will be fixed with time. It doesn’t help right now.

7b. It makes it hard and awkward to get walkies partners.

7c. It will thus surprise me how very many people make it a point to go out of their way and give me a hug because I’m having a hard time. I didn’t think that many people noticed.

 

  1. Faith’s growth into a more balanced person with a view of the greyer aspects of the world is actually making her less interesting to me.

8a. To clarify: people who know grey exists aren’t boring. But I built this character around her black and white view of the world, and with her losing it, I find myself lost.

8b. I only just realized that 8a is the root of my problems with her.

 

  1. One bad joke that makes people groan will help keep my energy up and make me cackle ALL. DAY.

9a. I regret nothing. And I apologize for nothing.

9b. Even better that it came from a patron, but it would’ve been better if the bit the patron gave it in had been appropriate. Instead, he was clearly trying to shock two women with his bawdiness, and we got out of there, but wow if I didn’t get a lot of mileage out of that patron’s joke.

9c. Because it happened on the same day as Faith joining Foul Time, she’ll make it a day-long mission to find Seahawks and tell it to them.

9d. It’s more disappointing to Faith than she’ll admit that Captain Fairfield wasn’t impressed.

9e. Breaking Charles Brandon with a dirty joke is AMAZING.

 

  1. I’m comfortable with any patron doing anything they find amusing near me so long as other cast is in earshot.

10a. That’s because I know the second I add “in sooth” to screaming “help me,” I’ll have any number of people I trust at my side willing to help me.

10b. Omitting those magic words means it’s taken completely as the bit that it was, and I’m really glad no one came to try and “rescue” me when I was making a point to a patron clearly doing a bit with me.

10c. He had a good time messing with me. Everything was good. It was funny that he tried to play off me actually managing to shove him out of my personal space as “cute” and like he indulged me. He didn’t. I know how physics and human bodies work.

 

  1. I’m continually surprised to be reminded how young I still look. Having people demonstrably younger than me and newer to cast treat me as their junior is a little shocking.

11a. It’s awesome, though, that literally no one looks askance at me when I call myself 19 in character. No one at all calls me on that shit.

 

I had some fun moments with Sister Ursula the last couple of weekends. Catholic school came up, and it was determined Sister Ursula would be a TERRIBLE Catholic school nun because she’s so sweet and nice. Faith didn’t even think she could be angry, so we started trying to make her angry. After a few rounds of failure, I pointed dramatically at her and said, “Sister Ursula, I caught you dancing earlier. So I have had ALL the rest of the dancing at the festival CANCELLED this day.”

 

That did it. She chased me around the group of benches and stage we were at while I protested that I was kidding, I hadn’t really, I didn’t have that authority, and look I’d made her mad! She stopped chasing me, we both started catching our breath, and that’s when I turned around to see both the Mother Abbess and the Bishop from Rome looking at me. And coming my way. Oh, the backpedaling Faith did was magnificent. And the bishop smiling hugely and telling me that was his “disappointed” face was amazing.

 

This led to a quest this last Sunday on Sister Ursula’s part to learn how to do all seven of the Deadly Sins so she would have an “interesting confession.” (Side note: I have never seen His Eminence’s face morph into so many flavors of frightened in so short a span of time as I did when Sister Ursula told him her plan.) We did walkies together, helping her coax patrons into explaining the sins and helping her experience them. One group of patrons were determined that they didn’t do any of those sins at all, and I kept running into one of them and asking if he’d sinned yet.

 

When we were in more of a hurry, the bit shortened to practicing her “wrathful face.” I asked patrons to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10. She got four ratings: 1, 6.5, 2, and 10. Those high ratings were VERY generous.

 

I quite accidentally ended up encountering the Lord Secretary and his minion Sir Gwain while they were doing a bit about teaching the honest Sir Gwain how to lie. The second Faith heard they were corrupting an honest man, she stepped into the Angel position opposite Cromwell and refused to leave until he did. Thankfully, neither actor was bothered by this. Though, they could’ve easily gotten my actor brain to take over by telling me to bugger off in sooth because they were doing a thing.

 

For the first time ever, I got to go to Sunday Morning Foul Time. I have been looking for them off and on ever since I heard it was a thing, and never found them. I think it would’ve been a lot more fun as Faith before she got married so she wouldn’t know what they were talking about, but it was interesting to bounce back and forth across the line of what she was okay with and what she wasn’t.

 

She’s also perfectly willing to experiment with bad behavior that may be rude but isn’t illegal. Like talking with her mouth full or scratching herself. I was told to pick my nose and protested I had garlic on my fingers, but when I looked up, there weren’t any patrons to pay attention to me picking my nose with garlic-covered fingers, so I didn’t. When prompted by a Seahawk to show my sister what I learned, though, I definitely picked my nose, too.

 

It’s funny to ask people if they can understand you, and they shake their head no. If you didn’t, how could you answer my question?

 

Curiosity is her downfall. She will ask. And regret hearing the answer. Although, buckling down and asking what her hoohah smells like after hearing about other women will make her both deeply uncomfortable and relieved. The answers were mostly bread related. The yeast one made her cringe because of yeast infections, but other than that…. Hey, some of those women smelled like despair.

 

We also got the Quest Guy pass by, and everyone did a quest. As it turns out, I can sing the alphabet song with my mouth full of water pretty okay. It also means I have candy in my pouch to give to kids later who wanted to do more quests but the Quest Guy had already moved on (and I doubt they should keep hitting him up for them over and over, anyway). So, I gave out a couple of quests of my own and had candy to doll out.

 

Perhaps my favorite part, though, was when I left Foul Time. It was dissolving, but I didn’t want to simply walk away. So, I spotted a woman and her small child and teenage child walking together and asked if the children were hers and if she’d mind a third. She didn’t at all, so I fell into step with them loudly proclaiming that my family had shown up and oh no it was time for me to go. As we walked away from the picnic table of Foul Time, I explained to them what had been going on, what awful people the privateers were, and how grateful I was they gave me an excuse to escape.

 

As soon as we reached the kitchens, I decided that was far enough and thanked them for their help. Mom pointed out that one of them was following us, so I turned in midstep and went back to following them, again saying very loudly that this was NOT a ruse, they were my REAL family, and I should stay with them, right? After all, I blended in with this family PERFECTLY.

 

Note: not only were they t-shirt and jeans patrons who didn’t dress remotely like my 16th century yeoman villager, they were also all black. But they happily assured me that I blended in GREAT. They were great sports, and I loved them.

 

We walked a little farther, and Grace came up the lane. I stared at her wide-eyed and said that was definitely NOT my real, actual sister coming toward us, and she definitely won’t in any way think I’d disowned the family when she found out I had a new one. The patrons started laughing, but Grace did a bit and didn’t hear. They were kind enough to point out that neither Grace nor the following Seahawk were looking, so I had an opportunity to run. I took the exit and ran up the lane, telling the next big group that they had not seen me, and the big man in red and black would not be interested in which way I went at ALL. Also: Seahawks are terrible people.

 

I walked around on Easter with Lady Jane Dudley, trying to get people to sing Little Bunny FooFoo. It worked a couple of times, but the magnificent moment was when we ran into one of the German rapping twins on the bridge and managed to get him to beatbox while I sang the first part of the song. His justification was that he wasn’t the rapper, so he couldn’t rap it. But it made for a wonderful, wonderful moment.

 

When I saw both of them together out in the lanes together I stopped them dramatically and said, “Little Bunny FooFoo. Go!” The one brother nearly fell over laughing and holding his face, while the other brother was like “what” and then explained that they had to get to a show, and they were very sorry. They still love me, though.

WIL Opening Weekend

I work for the street cast of a local Renaissance festival that has just opened. And many of us like to keep logs of things we learned over the weekends as they go by, called a W(hat) I L(earned). I’ll often add anecdotes of fun stories or things I’d like to remember when looking back later at the end of mine.

This one has an extensive amount of brain dumping in it. It was a rough weekend.

  1. I can’t do this.
    To clarify, “this” is the schedule I wanted to do, and which I basically managed during workshops. I had work Fri and Sat nights, Faire on Sat and Sun days. One of the things which allowed me to manage it was the less active workshop schedules. Another was the few hours of sleep I got after workshops were over. But the biggest one was the ability to lay my head down and rest overnight when nothing was going on. After about 2 am, large swaths of free time open up most of the time. Even on busy nights, there’s plenty of downtime. This ability was taken away from me a couple of weeks ago. Attempting to do a full Faire weekend without any bit of rest during work destroyed me and my emotional state.
    I’m now on a part time schedule, skipping Sat.
    I hate it. It’s still the right thing to do.
  2. With no emotional stability to speak of, absolutely everything has an effect on that emotional state. My entire character and past got put under scrutiny and found wanting during a really rough Sat night shift, and Faire didn’t actually help.
    I only feel better today in the sense I’m not fighting off tears nigh constantly for no reason. I am still fighting off tears when the brain weasels start actively gnawing.
    This means a bunch of different things for how Faire goes for me. I’m not Faith Potter, I’m Lucia In Funny Clothes. I already know basically all the reassurance I’m going to hear, so hearing those words from someone else’s mouth doesn’t help. Anything that could even slightly make me feel small is run through the filter of everything awful I’ve been going over in my head, and much of it is applied as “evidence” of the “truth” of what a supremely not good person or friend I am. Any bad patron interactions get dumped directly on my self worth as a performer and mess me up. There can be no victory against the bad patrons for me. After a while, I want to give up and disappear because I’m only making things worse for everyone who’s trying to be a good friend. Worst of all, the comparisons go through the roof.
  3. The only reason I don’t think Sunday was a waste of time and I’d have been better off staying home is because I had some pretty successful moments entertaining people. And that’s really the whole point. As hard as it was, it was thus worth it.
  4. I am decent at history. I can hold my own in a general conversation. The moment I have someone INFINITELY better at history than me in that conversation, it goes over my head, and I get to sit and listen instead.
    I’m usually not all that bothered by this. I learn things. When emotionally fragile, it makes me feel like a failure. A stupid failure.
  5. I’m surprisingly good at coming up with nouns for groups of people.
    It makes me feel really good about myself when I come up with enough good ones that people start requesting them for their own group.
    I get more gratification out of a member of said group being exasperated than if they’re thrilled. (More on why below. It’s not only because I get a kick out of annoying people.)
    I’m also pretty sure the three patrons who also got group nouns are going to be using those for a while.
  6. I drop all obligations to patrons to look after a friend.
    This is not a new one. But it did happen twice this last weekend.
  7. I’ve worked really hard to try and bolster my confidence. One of the ways I’ve adopted to do this is talking a lot. More accurately, trying to be heard. I’ve invested so much in this (in large part because it’s so hurtful to me to be talked over, so I made a concerted effort to stop trailing off into nothing when I do get talked over) that it’s made me pretty obnoxious in at least some contexts.
    Thus, I now need to learn how to shut my mouth more.
    None of this has fixed how easy it apparently is to talk over and ignore me. I might as well not be obnoxious about trying to be heard when it’s not even helping.
  8. I still have not learned how to garner respect from people who don’t know me.
    This fact makes it really hard to tell myself people who do know me do respect me. Instead, it’s “well, they’re cast and supporting other performers means paying lip service to respecting my character. It’s not real.”
    Fuck, am I always going to be a little girl that’s easy to write off?
  9. I deeply appreciate everyone who took the time to pay attention and make it known that I’m loved. I’m not good at receiving that love when I’m in this state, but whether I argue with you or wave it off, please know that it’s because being fragile makes me a bitch, not because I don’t appreciate and need it.
  10. Me and my sister make a great, entertaining team.
    That one’s certainly not new, but we kicked it off with a spectacular bit.
  11. However excited I am for opening, I do not start off full speed. Not in the least.
    Instead, I wade in until I find a rhythm. This means a lot of awkward bits to start, or swaths of time/conversations with no audience until I find that rhythm.
    I am pretty good at finding the moment in a conversation between performers that could benefit from patron interaction and successfully hooking patrons into the conversation from there.
    That kind of bit has always been more successful for me than trying to make bits about the patrons. Instead, I give them an important role in someone else’s conversation–I’m asking their advice, usually. When making it about the patron, it almost inevitably has the flavor of theater and they get the “oh okay, time to play along” feeling from it. When asking their advice, it’s harder for them to immediately jump to “these are actors doing a scene,” and instead they get invested in our lives and our feelings. The moment when they give the question serious thought is when I know they think they’re contributing to someone’s life, and I’ve got them cold.
  12. With no Mum on cast to invoke, apparently my sisters have decided “I’m gonna tell Faith” is a suitable replacement threat.
    I’m so okay with this.
  13. Apparently, when Faith successfully orders/bullies someone into doing something, their reaction after doing it is to check back in and make sure it was done to Faith’s satisfaction.
    I’m also okay with this.
  14. All of my brain dumping this post and this weekend aside, my main problem is with work and exhaustion. I know I’m, at the very least, a competent performer. I know I deserve my badge, and people love me. I’m going to try to find a solution, but I don’t think one can be made and successfully implemented until next season, and that hurts.
    I’m broken.
    But I’ll be okay.

 

Brain weasels and stumbles aside, I had some good, memorable moments from this weekend.

My sister Grace ended up with a bowl full of cake at one point, and she got my attention so I’d notice it. I sidled over and asked her what she had. “My cake which is mine and not yours.” So obviously I had to sit down and see what I could do about that. Following my sitting down were at least 20 minutes of holding my mouth open, making “aaaaah” noises, and informing passing patrons that, “If you sit here long enough with your mouth open, she puts cake in it.” That line never failed to get a laugh. Grace’s comeback of, “Sisters are the worst,” increased the laughter and gave them some great context for the two of us.

She also occasionally accused me of being a cake thief, so we had some extended bits where I stopped a group of patrons and asked them this: “If you’re sitting, not doing anything, merely with your mouth open, and she puts cake into your mouth of her own volition, are you stealing?” Pretty much everyone fell on my side: that’s not stealing. They also got a big kick out of Grace’s pouting and my smugness. One such bit ended up with me having a raspberry-off against Grace and two twin patron girls about 10 years old.

Someone needs to teach those girls how to properly blow raspberries. If the scene could’ve gone that direction successfully, I totally would’ve done it, but their parents were ready to go.

I can’t remember when the Potters got the group noun of “a pitterpatter of Potters,” but it was before this weekend. This weekend, however, a whole slew of new group nouns were made. The first one came early on Saturday, when I saw Drew Follywoll walking across the way with his two young sons in tow. Lady Jane commented that they looked like ducks, and I decided they needed a group noun. Thus: a fumble of Follywolls. I had my shoes off at the time (buying new boots), so Lady Jane promptly left the shop to inform him. Mind you, that noun paints an entirely accurate, if not complimentary, picture of that family, and everyone who hears it agrees it’s highly appropriate.

That doesn’t mean Drew had to like it. Nor did he. He facepalmed for an extended moment, even massaging the side of his face, and glared in my direction. I cheerfully waved back.

The next target became the Stonegraves for reasons I can’t remember. We were with one of the Stonegraves, who are mourners and gravediggers, and the subject came up. Alliteration has become very important for these, so we all tried to go with s- words. Thus was born a somber of Stonegraves. Samuel Stonegrave was unimpressed and tried to find an argument, but ultimately ended up just saying, “Fuck it, where’s my somber?” and left while we laughed.

After that, we started getting requests for both family groups and international groups. A thicket of Thatchers, a shower of Sheffields, a dawning of Dudleys, a sass of Spanish, a frolic of French, and a glamour of Germans were all christened this weekend. Not all of them know about this, but that will be fixed. Hopefully, more to come. There’s also a jingle of gyptians, but I definitely can’t take credit for that one.

Along similar lines, I was walking with a Spanish lord and admitted I didn’t know his name. He proceeded to vomit out his full name at me, which I had no hope of remembering. I asked for something shorter. He gave me one, and then suggested I could call him “the fun Spanish bloke” if I couldn’t remember. This led to nicknaming the other two Spanish lords “the stiff Spanish bloke” and “the fancy Spanish bloke.”

Absolutely everyone we told these to knew exactly who each of those three were from the phrases alone. No explanation required. Including the other Spanish lords. The fancy one got a kick out of it, and the stiff one thought that he might be the fancy one but suspected he was the stiff one. He took it with good humor. (I bet any SAPA that reads this will also know who each of these is from this explanation alone.)

At one point, I was sitting with Sybil Stonegrave and tried to help her up, with mixed results. She left the spot she was sitting, but ended up splayed out on her back in the lane instead of upright. I promptly pronounced her dead and myself unfit to mourn her, as I was not a mourner. The phrase “I need an adult” came out of my mouth, followed by zeroing in on a group of patrons sitting nearby and enlisting their help to mourn her.

They did a pretty good job being respectful through their giggles and feeling bad for the poor dead performer in the lane. One of their friends came out of the Mermaid gift shop, and after being brought up to speed, offered to use the magic seashell she’d just bought, which had healing properties. She made a bit out of it, too, running it down the length of Sibyl and then drawing a heart over Sibyl’s heart.

Sibyl woke up immediately upon hearing the words, “and now we see if it worked.” After being informed she’d been dead, Sibyl got suuuuper angry that I’d brought her back to life and chased me off. We ended up sitting (on opposite ends, with the table between us) at a picnic table with a woman by herself. We informed her of the argument, and I defended myself by saying “who expects a magic seashell to actually work?” so Sibyl forgave me. We stuck around and chatted with her for a while.

That was really quite a nice conversation. When she was joined by her brother, the conversation went way south because he decided he needed to prove us wrong whenever we said absolutely anything. His understanding of history was shaky and more medieval than Renaissance, but everything we said was wrong. First he called us peasants, then changed it to serfs. He accused me of not letting Sibyl talk (though Sibyl was just as confused by the accusation as I was), both of us of not being real Catholics even though he’s not even Catholic himself, and refuted every single claim we made as long as he could.

In short, he sat and mansplained history to one of the instructors of History, Customs, and Manners (Sibyl) and my own life to me.

I didn’t find the conversation much fun at all. Being personally attacked in several ways, not to mention that even when he did concede it was in such a condescending voice that the dean of a British private school would be envious. It’s also not super fun to hear that a conversation I found frustrating was fun to all the other performers involved, and that everyone who hears about it who’s a stronger person than me inevitably says they wished they’d been there. What was a lot more fun was telling the story of the “mansplaining patron” to other performers and seeing their rage or frustrated confusion.

WIL Dress Rehearsals

I work for the street cast of a local Renaissance festival that is preparing for our spring show now. And many of us like to keep logs of things we learned over the weekends as they go by, called a W(hat) I L(earned). I’ll often add anecdotes of fun stories or things I’d like to remember when looking back later at the end of mine.

For our dress rehearsal weekend, we do a few different things. We have something we call Wallaby Day, which is a cast-only final rehearsal of our cast-only shows. We also have graduation, where we get badges and t-shirts and the like, plus a costume parade to show everyone our new costumes and give one more rundown of everyone’s names and faces, set to silly music. Plus Character Dinner Saturday night and a preview to some of our patrons.

Character Dinner is a cast-only potluck dinner where we spent several hours after workshops completely in character and welcome the visitors to the village. These are court characters, our sailors, our gyptians, any unaffiliated foreign visitors as well. It’s something that I, as well as many other cast members, think on quite fondly because of the immersive quality of it, and also the magic of being on site in character after dark–not something that happens often.

  1. Faith is quite different during Character Dinner than the run of the festival. The reason being that this is the formal welcome to those visiting the festival, and she feels responsible for them feeling welcomed. Moreso this year than ever before, and the pressure she feels to do that gave her quite a lot of anxiety when interacting with the visiting nobility.
  2. Her development into a leader is coming along well. Despite her misgivings, she did do a good job when she was actively doing it, of looking after her villagers and her guests. She was too intimidated to speak to Princess Mary or Queen Margaret, but then circumstances demanded she speak with Her Majesty, and Faith did it without any hesitation. She also so thoroughly bullied Emma Fysher into eating that the poor girl came up later and asked permission to get back to work.
  3. Her anxiety is interesting to me because it doesn’t feel right even to her. She’s a worrier, but not particularly anxious most of the time. Only when interacting with those she felt particular pressure that they enjoy themselves–the royalty and the visiting nobility by far were in this group–did she turn into a bit of a stammering, stumbling ball of nerves. She was unsure with the English nobility, and a bit off balance around the gyptians because she felt she was supposed to behave a bit differently to them than usual, but not sure how exactly to be different. But once she thought she had done enough to make herself seen as a hostess, she drew back. Everyone was enjoying themselves, and she wouldn’t have to deal with that uncomfortable twisting in her stomach if she stayed back here and watched, so she did.
  4. During these times, I heavily felt the absence of her close friends, particularly Edith and Penny. Faith wanted someone to run to and relax and almost be a kid for a while with, but also didn’t. It felt unprofessional to her, so she was glad her friends weren’t there because she would’ve done it anyway. I wanted them to be there because I spent a fair chunk of the evening watching others instead of interacting. Because there is no audience, this is the one time of the year I allow my character to do exactly what they want instead of forcing Character of the Moment so that she does something. It helps the character be as solid as possible for the upcoming season, but does occasionally lead to moments like this. She was content, and it was the best thing for the development of her character, but I was antsy sometimes.
  5. Of the nobility, Faith feels most comfortable with Lord Exeter. That doesn’t mean she feels comfortable with him, though.
    Strangely, the most comfortable she feels with someone titled is Captain Fairfield (he’s technically Baron of Susserland, though he doesn’t rely on that title much and rarely calls it to attention, so Faith doesn’t loop him in with other nobles). Faith was pulled aside several times by different characters to get her to open up about why she was being squirrely and distant. She was honest with Drew, a fellow Council member and a family friend, but when the Captain demanded to know why she was so nervous, it all fell out of her mouth in a much more Faith and straightforward way, almost challenging.
  6. I believe Faith is on the right track. I wasn’t sure of that until this weekend, but I am now.
  7. Dialect is hard for me during workshops. Jumping in and out of character means the way I speak and the way Faith speaks get blended. Once Character Dinner hit, and Faith could be herself longer than five minutes, her dialect fell right out of her face like it always did.
  8. Learned last week, but cemented now. I am drawn to “low-percentage choices.” These are choices that take more work to make successful. For example–a white girl like me playing a Japanese character. I want to do it because I think it’s interesting, because I’ve spent so much time with that culture, and because I believe I can do it successfully without resorting to stereotypes and bring a real Japanese person to the lanes. I have all this knowledge and experience, I want to use it in a fun, theatrical arena that lets me play with the parts of Japanese culture that they romanticize as much as we do.
    Also, we get Japanese people out at the faire sometimes, and they got a HUGE kick out of seeing a samurai a few years ago. It’s a nod that we see you, we pay attention to you, and we think you’re interesting.
  9. I’m not at all confident I’ll ever get to play the low-percentage choices that have settled deep in my heart. But I’ve now communicated these desires to some people that are relevant to whether or not it ever happens. It doesn’t mean I’ll get to. But it does mean I’ve made a verbal promise to try, and that’ll anchor me so I don’t talk myself out of even proposing the ideas.
  10. I do not enjoy having no idea what to expect from something I’m expected to do.
    Let me explain. I like surprises–those are fun. They are done to me.
    I like left turns–those are fun. They are done to me and in a wider context that guides the possible ways I can respond.
    I like improv–that’s fun. There are scenarios and characters and established parameters around which we all play, and which guide me in ways I’m expected to act and respond.
    If there are parameters and a scenario, I need to be let in on them before I feel comfortable helping. “It’s improv” is not an explanation. That’s a tool I already knew I’d need.
  11. Give me a reason that I and others find fun for me to stomp off into a lake and get my feet wet, and I won’t regret said wet feet all day.
    It’s still alarming to take my shoe off and see a puddle of water spreading from my sock when I put my foot down. I thought I was kidding when I said I had half a glass of water in that shoe.
  12. All my expectations for how my cast would respond and how we would move forward after some radical changes occurred between weekends were completely justified.
    Princess Mary is my hero.

A few sharp character moments from Character Dinner.

The first came from Emma Fysher, a barmaid. She was going around the tables, offering small mead to the villagers to drink. Someone near me commented that she hadn’t seen Emma eat. So, we asked her, and she said she was busy serving. I stood up and said, “Emma Fysher, if I have to take that bottle from you and serve myself so you will sit down and eat something, I will.” She stared at me for a beat, then hunched down, said, “Yes ma’am,” and scurried off to get food.

Even better: she came back with a bowl and asked for my approval over how much she was eating.

Even even better: she came back later with her half-eaten bowl and an explanation of everything she had put in her face and asked permission to get back to serving.

A comment was made that I channel my mother quite well.

To contrast that moment, and providing an interesting seesaw between the respect of her position and the invisibility of her newness to it came when the nobility began to filter over to our side. Lord Exeter stepped up and asked for “your mayor or someone of authority.” I was standing approximately three feet from him, in full view, with my Council sash in stark contrast to my costume underneath, but was apparently invisible. He looked over my head and around the room. Someone pointed out the mayor, and Exeter went that way. Faith felt very small for a few minutes.

Pushing the seesaw back to what she’ll grow into was another moment later, when Mark Follywoll went running by. He’s the bailiff and also on the Council, so when Faith sees him running, she assumes a problem. I followed him in time to see him pick up his kicking and screaming cousin and carrying her out of a group. They had an argument, then I asked what happened, and this was the story:

Jocelyn had gotten her hands on a turnip that had carved into it “THOU ART NEXT” and was playing catch with it. Harmless if you know her (sweet, enthusiastic girl who would cry if told she’d accidentally squished a fly), but she was playing catch with visiting nobility. There is an implied threat in there if you don’t have the context of her innocence. And Jocelyn had played this game with both Princess Mary and Queen Margaret.

Mark and I both tried to explain the way this could be viewed while making it clear we knew what she meant, but Jocelyn was having none of it. She took off at the first opportunity, and Mark ran off after her. He didn’t seem to be catching her, though, so Faith came up with a different solution.

She went to Queen Margaret and explained the whole thing.

Her Majesty was confused but gracious, and said she’d seen no threat in the actions herself. Faith was grateful, but continued pressing the matter to explain that it wasn’t so much that anyone had taken offense yet, but that someone might, and we wished for her to understand there was no offense meant should someone feel threatened.

My favorite part was when Mark went by, heard he was being talked about, and paused. And when he saw I had it in hand, he tried to leave, but Queen Margaret said calmly, “You have not been dismissed. We are still discussing you.” Then turned back to me and asked me to go on. I think Mark went white.

After that happened, Mark and I stepped aside and caught our breath over the whole thing. Jocelyn could do that all she wished now, and the possible ramifications of death by execution were already handled. He was still freaking out, but extremely grateful for Faith’s solution.

I had an actor-affirming moment at the first rehearsal of our Town Council show. After providing someone to state a complaint, I found myself with nothing to do. One thing we like to do is a jury to decide the problem, and I’d found a single member of the jury already, but ran out of time. So, while they debated, I filtered through the crowd and asked if people had opinions, then named them part of my jury. When the Master Bailiff (aforementioned Mark from the previous story) stated that they were ready for a jury, I stepped up and said, “Jury assemble!” and five people (shoulda been six, but I think one of them went to the bathroom at the wrong time despite agreeing to be a juror, pff) stepped up and formed  a clump.

Mark paused, stared at me in open shock, then said, “That was amazing. Do that every time.”

The other great moment of that rehearsal, though mostly just a fun story, came with the final complaint–levied at me for having bread that was too expensive. I laid into her, demanding if she knew how much everything cost, making a full list and everything about what went into making bread, and she just shrugged. Drew stepped up and advised her on the universal defense: start crying. At which point, the two professional mourners we had in the audience rushed on stage to join her, creating a block of crying women.

After milking how bad a person Faith was for making them cry, they demanded if she had a defense. And Faith wailed, “This is my first year doing this job!” in such a pathetic way that not only did the audience “aw,” but the mourners and the original complainer all ran over to her side to join her crying. Faith got pointers on how to pout from the mourners, and the tribunal announced she was to be given leniency for her first year on the job. We hugged it out.

I now have my badge, and at graduation there were voices crying “welcome home” in addition to the cheering we gave everyone for making it through workshops. Ground feels more solid now. Kind of funny considering how much of the Scarborough grounds were water on Sunday.

WIL Final Workshops

I work for the street cast of a local Renaissance festival that is preparing for our spring show now. And many of us like to keep logs of things we learned over the weekends as they go by, called a W(hat) I L(earned). I’ll often add anecdotes of fun stories or things I’d like to remember when looking back later at the end of mine.

This was the final weekend of classes. We have dress rehearsals next weekend, then the show opens the weekend after!

A lot to talk about this weekend because there were several games specifically designed to bring about revelations.

  1. Faith trusts Captain Latimer Fairfield now. There’s a direct line between this trust and the friendship and trust she built with Beckett years ago. It opened a door to accepting that the Captain does in fact love Scarborough and holds its interests in his heart.
    It also solidifies the difference between privateers and pirates in her mind, and establishes another layer of grey in her originally black-and-white world of Justice.
  2. No justification is a good justification for killing innocent people. Not even protecting the village or her own family would be a good reason to kill other innocent people, no matter who they were.
    Faith would be a terrible choice for werewolf. Because she would target someone who is already a criminal for the first victim, and then the next night–now knowing she’s a werewolf and who the other werewolves are–out EVERYONE.
  3. She’s not afraid to acknowledge that people she loves may have sides to them she doesn’t know. There are exceptions to this (it’d be extremely difficult, for example, for her to believe any ill of her mother), but when things get bad, and there is a strong sign something is wrong among the people she loves, she’ll point it out and back it up.
  4. Do not ever assume that your feelings or relationships are “better” or “closer” than those of others’. Faith sees it as an extreme insult, no matter how famed the closeness of your group may be. Everyone loves those around them and wants the best for them. No one is above reproach.
  5. Faith really isn’t seen as a leader figure in the village. She’s not surprised, I’m not surprised, but it needs to be worked on. That being said, she doesn’t give up after being ignored.
  6. Faith sees her biggest failing as Lady Bread as that lack of authority.
  7. From her interactions with Lord Exeter, she’s reminded of the same attitudes she sees in the Rooke, baron of Scarborough. Because of that correlation, if she needs assistance from someone in the court, Lord Exeter is likely to be the first person she thinks of.
  8. Cemented: she has great ambition for herself, but her happiness lies in her family. If she achieves nothing she wants for herself, but all her siblings grow up, get married, and have happy, fulfilling lives, she’ll die a happy woman. Her fondest dream is to die in bed with her grandchildren around her.
  9. Faith associates being called ‘Lady Bread’ by people she knows well as being called out to do her job. As such, she doesn’t particularly relish the title.
    Another reason she doesn’t relish it is that the title means ‘Mum’ to her. Hearing it directed at her is awkward.
  10. She really likes sex. Not in general, only with her husband, whom she loves deeply and passionately.
    If she can’t have sex with her husband, she can’t be married to him. End of story. She wouldn’t be able to keep her hands off him.
    Getting married to someone she has these feelings for then immediately leaving to go back to London for a while left a lot of passion swirling around that had no direction. It led to a marital indiscretion while she was away, which she deeply regrets and found no ultimate satisfaction in.
    She has gone to confession for it, but I’m not entirely sure she’s worked up the courage to tell William. It’s not an “if”, though. She knows she must, and most likely ultimately will.
  11. My pride in myself as a performer is stronger than ever, but still depressingly fragile. Mostly because of the close tie it has to the approval I get. I’m too dependent on it, always have been, and until I can make the root of my confidence come from myself, it always will be fragile.

 

My favorite scene moments all have single lines I said that exemplifies what it was that made it memorable and fun.

“Don’t worry. Most taste testers live several years.”
I had to practice positive conflict, and I chose to give the patron the great news that I thought she’d be a wonderful taste tester. For the royals. But it’s fine, the food is wonderful, and you get to try so many different things. Sure, there is risk of death–horrible death, even, as some poisons are nasty–but it’s not like every meal is poisoned. She could live for several years in the lap of luxury eating delicious food.

“Do you not WANT to feed starving children?”
In a scene with a partner, my partner established that we were going to sacrifice our patron for May Day. Because this is a fertility festival, that means her sacrifice will ensure lots of food for the village in the harvest. Sure, I may have implied that the children in Scarborough are starving–which of course they’re not–but surplus food we have gets sold for cheaper, which means more food for everyone in the general area. There are bound to be starving children somewhere that would benefit from her sacrifice.
The instructor pouted at me.
Our patron then informed us she was Buddhist and wouldn’t burn. So, my partner and I decided we must test this theory. We were going to get something to burn her with and find out for ourselves if she wasn’t flammable. “Stay right there; we will return momentarily.” How To Not Have a Pet Patron* 101.

*A “pet patron” is a patron who follows you around because you invited them to. This usually happens because they agree to the situation you’ve put them in, and you can’t find a way to get them to unagree to it.

“Have you never heard of a meat pie?”
Because I’m working on supporting, I also didn’t drive this one. My partner established that I was going to be making a bread statue of our patron. Which involved the patron standing in a grand pose, being covered in bread, then baked. Naturally. The patron was thrown for a loop that she would be in the bread sculpture, so I helpfully provided the context that she seemed to be lacking. Hey, maybe they didn’t have meat cooked inside bread where she was from.

“Well, she had to keep going until she got a boy.”
We were practicing patron conversations, and my two patrons were arguing. So, I asked if they were siblings or married, they said siblings. We had a fun conversation getting to the fact that Faith has nine siblings, there are nine girls and one boy, the baby. One patron said, “Your poor mother!” so I had to explain that Mum couldn’t very well stop with only girls if she wanted a real future for her family. My instructor nearly fell over, and declared it a successful start to a conversation.

We played In Character Werewolf this weekend, and several of the numbers above came from this game. The individual scene from that which stuck out to me the most happened in the first game. Early on, Faith pulled aside Arthur Sheffield, the only other authority figure in the village present in our group. She pointed out that they were in charge and had to be on the same page and guiding the village. The very next round, Faith died. So, I got to stand aside and watch the werewolves choose. And who was a werewolf? Arthur Sheffield. Faith was furious.

(As a side note, I’m quite proud of how impassive I could manage to be while the people who were still alive had their eyes open because I was stomping, screaming mad when I saw him kill someone.)

He was eventually executed as a werewolf, and when he died, I went after him. We went off to the side and had an intense argument. He persisted that he was saving the village, redirecting the victims to be gyptians* instead of villagers, and backed up his defense by pointing out that now that he’s not alive anymore, villagers are dying in droves. Faith laid into him that the gyptians were also innocents, and because the Rooke has the gyptians under his protection for the duration of the festival, that makes them also under the protection of the Council. (Faith, as Lady Bread, is on the Town Council. Arthur, as Lord High Solicitor, is also among the leadership of the village.) He was still harming people he was supposed to be protecting, not to mention harming people at all. He should’ve given himself up and tried to take down the other werewolves, but instead, he chose to kill. That makes him a despicable person and a traitor to the village as far as Faith is concerned.

In the second game, it began with the death of Faith’s mother. That made the entire thing a thousand times more personal. No one in her direct family was involved in the previous game. This one also began with only deaths of people Faith feels responsible for–villagers and one gyptian. Which meant she had to step up and do something. However, she didn’t have any suspicions about who it might be. The groups present were all ones Faith has some measure of confidence in: the village, the gyptians, the men of the Mary Rose (flagship to His Majesty, so king’s men), Royal Guardsmen, and Seahawks (who have Scarborough as their home port, and although privateers and thus criminals and murderers, the Captain–as noted above–has the best interests of the town at heart). No one she would immediately suspect.

Because the only deaths came from village or village-adjacent, Faith realized a horrible truth: one of them was a werewolf. At least one. Because they’re trying to draw suspicion away from themselves. Without knowing who precisely that meant because there was no one Faith  wanted to think that of, it made her unreliable at finding who might really be responsible. So, she called the village and gyptians over to tell them her theory, in case someone else had insights.

There was a horrible moment when no one responded. Absolutely no one. Not even her cousins or her fellow village leader, who would be the most likely to listen. Absolutely no one came over when she called. That hurt, I’ll be honest, but it only made Faith angry. She called again, louder and angrier, and got a response that time.

The gyptians sent a representative, who informed her that it couldn’t possibly be one of them, they’re clean, they’re good people, they would know, they take care of their own. (At least, that’s what Faith heard in her words.) All implying that the village does or is not these things, which only made Faith angrier. It added a level of disdain to her thoughts of the gyptains, but did not make her suspect them. They have the confidence of the Rooke, so Faith sees no inherent danger in them, like many people of the Period do. But she does not appreciate being told that they think they’re better than she and her loved ones are.

After that, though, Faith didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know who, specifically, it might be, and there’s nothing to be done except kill suspects. Which meant she went from the shock of Mum’s death, to anger that people are attacking her village, to now hopelessness at being helpless to stop it. It was either that or start killing innocents personally out of a hope that they get the right one eventually, which Faith was not willing to do. She would rather let people who are more world-wise than her and more discerning figure it out and support them.

Which she did. She found that in Captain Fairfield. When one of her villagers was accused, Faith asked why, and the basic reason was that he had an instinct for this sort of thing. Because she knows he has the village’s interests at heart, she didn’t believe he would simply throw accusations around, and he is everything she looks for in someone to listen to in this situation–authoritative, world-wise, strong, and compassionate. Yes, it’s in a strange package she would not have accepted a few years ago, but everything else fits. It took some soul searching, and she shook severely while thinking it over, but she supported his accusation, and that villager was a werewolf. Which validated Faith’s original gut instinct, but it still left her with no other moves personally to protect her people, who dropped like flies that game. She would rather have gotten killed herself, to spare some of the others who were more innocent or more needed than herself.

*Gyptian is the Period term for Romani. The Romani themselves often use the correct terminology, though they go back and forth because of ease of understanding for their hosts. I’m unaware of this old term being considered problematic still, but because of its strong resemblance to the racist term for this culture, I wanted to give some context.

Joy in Puns

That’s right. I said it. I love puns. Fight me.

I heard a fantastic pun this weekend during a story. A friend and her husband were at another Renaissance festival, holding beers, and he knocked hers out of her hand. Then said this beautiful line: “It’s not my fault you can’t hold your beer.”

I laughed a lot, guys.

Being the only person laughing at a pun also brings me joy. Mostly because when the other people aren’t laughing, they’re usually groaning. That’s half the fun of puns in the US: they bring pain to the vast majority of people. The more exaggerated the outrage over the joke, the more hilarious it is.

A favorite comic artist of mine, Mookie (writer of current webcomic Star Power, and writer and illustrator of completed webcomic Dominic Deegan), knew this just as much as I did. Many of his main characters enjoyed telling puns, but then would turn around and give the audience an “oh brother” look when another character would tell one. Because the element of a character not enjoying a pun was just as much fun as the pun itself, or more. Or there would be pun-tastic exchanges between characters, the best of which were when title character Dominic and his wife would flirt with puns. It was beautiful.

That’s one reason I enjoy British media so much. The British love puns, too. I’ve recently gotten into The Great British Baking Show, and the hosts Mel and Sue are wonderful about inserting puns into their announcements. The fact that they’re so prolific with them made it hysterical when they began one episode by stating they had been banned from punning off the word “buns” that week because it would be coming up all episode long and the possibilities were endless. The tortured looks on their faces when they had a great opportunity but had to let it pass due to the ban were as much fun as any joke would’ve been.

During one episode, they were making picnic pies, two contestants were modeling their pies after picnic baskets, and Sue gave this announcement with an enormous grin: “Half an hour left, bakers. Don’t let the time crunch hamper your progress.” She then paused, swung her arms awkwardly, and added, “I’ll just be out back,” in an acknowledgement of how bad that pun was.

A close friend of mine likes to share puns with me because she knows I like them. She does not. Any sharing of puns in the other direction involves accusations of being a bad person who should feel bad. I do not.

I am, however, not spectacular at puns myself, hence the lack of them in the sentences I wrote myself for this pun. I’m a write amateur at them. (See, that’s not very good, but it still makes me smile.) I think admiring the skill others have which I do not adds to my enjoyment.

Do you like puns? What are some that you’ve heard that you’ve particularly enjoyed?

Or do you hate them? Why are puns so terrible?

WIL … however many I’ve skipped

I work for the street cast of a local Renaissance festival that is preparing for our spring show now. And many of us like to keep logs of things we learned over the weekends as they go by, called a W(hat) I L(earned). I’ll often add anecdotes of fun stories or things I’d like to remember when looking back later at the end of mine.

I’ve had two half-weekends I know I didn’t do WILs for yet. I’ve been sick this entire time, my voice mostly gone the previous weekend and this last weekend mostly back. Missed Sunday of the previous weekend, and Sat of this one.

I got some feedback from Character at the end of the first weekend that I then spent over a week overanalyzing and obsessing over because of course I did. It was phrased in a way that made it sound like I was failing my fellow performers, despite getting generally positive feedback from most of my instructors during, well, all of workshops so far. I’d felt like I’d been doing a great job prior to that conversation, and that single sentence said to me made me doubt my entire assessment of how I’d been doing. So, that’s been fun.

  1. Everyone has lapses in judgment, brain power, what-have-you. This applies to characters, too. So, however much your first instinct might be “she’s too smart to do something like that,” it’s a stronger choice to push that aside and justify why maybe she wasn’t really at that specific moment. Your audience losing their minds will reward you.
  2. Although I hadn’t put it in these terms before, Mark Follywoll is definitely a foible of Faith’s. Much like Kit Rooke, in Faith’s eyes he can do no wrong where the law is concerned. Which is even funnier because from what I understand, Mark is a bit of a doofus, as opposed to Kit Rooke’s quick wit and aggressive attitude, which matched Faith quite well. I think the pair of them doing Walkies with Faith fangirling over how smart and right he is will be quite a sight.
  3. I can’t take sitting and being an audience member for an extended period of time. All my energy leeches out, no matter how entertaining the scenes are. After a while, I can’t even be a mouthy audience member anymore. This is probably heavily influenced by how tired I am on weekends this year, but it makes a pretty stark contrast between my successful scenes during the day and my attitude when leaving.
  4. I dislike not being able to volunteer. With the decision out of my hands, I may not get a chance to participate through luck of the draw. It leaves me feeling dissatisfied with the lesson, even if it was good.
  5. As disappointing as it is to think of what would’ve made the scene work better 20 minutes after doing a scene that doesn’t go well, it’s also a good thing. Because I know what the scene needed, even if I’m slow about it. It’s far preferable to having no idea what I should’ve done that would’ve been successful.
  6. This year is giving me deja vu for my first year back after college. I knew people and was liked, but I didn’t know a lot of people as well. I had trouble finding my footing in groups, and generally felt lost and off to the side when in groups with no one I knew particularly well. I felt out of touch with current dynamics and patterns of cast, and found myself getting strange looks for some of my opinions. (Different strange looks than usual, since I have a warped idea of what people consider weird or commonplace already. I routinely get comments like “everyone does” in response to me phrasing an experience like it’s weird, or confusion in response to me phrasing an experience like it’s common. I simply don’t know sometimes.)
  7. The further the season gets along, the more comfortable I feel in the knowledge that I’ve grown in the years I’ve been away. My feedback has never been so consistently positive as it has been this year.
  8. I’m not entirely sure if my decision to return as Faith was a good one. I may change characters next year if that feeling doesn’t go away.
  9. Regardless of if it was a good decision or not, I am objectively doing pretty well with her, so I don’t think this season will go badly in terms of my performance. I’m not entirely sure it’ll go well as far as my mental health and satisfaction, though. A few too many things eat at me at the moment.
  10. It’s legitimately funny to see one of my major ways of engaging patrons during the actual run turned into a game for Character. Although the other performers don’t often catch me at it and join my conversation, like in the game, seeing patrons watching performers from afar and giving them context and a story is a favorite tool of mine. It’s a way for me to be like the exposition in a novel.
  11. However much Faith’s ambitions in herself are modeled after her mother’s independence and don’t exactly fall into the general mold of what women of Renaissance England were supposed to want, her ambitions for her family fit neatly into the times. Social advancement? Not hardly. She wants her siblings to stay in the village, find good families of their own, and be happy. Her own ambitions motivate her energy, but her happiness lives in her family. In their safety, security, and success. The way she married speaks strongly to that as well–she loves William deeply, but it also roots her in the village personally, and his profession easily provides for her profession, which advances everyone in her family which shares the job. Her travel to London only accented to herself how much she wants her future to be tied to home.

Related to #1, I had an excellent scene with a couple of foreign noble characters, where we played off their misunderstanding of English as their second (or more) language. The phrase “bone to pick” came up in relation to my bread, and it was suggested I put actual bones in the bread. Although another character spoke up with an out for me to not own up to such a thing, I decided to ignore that and say yes, I did put bones in the bread. I’d heard a rumor that it was all the rage on the Continent, and thought it was a new fashion for baking. To dive deeper into it, I suggested that my little sister Chastity had been choking on the bones in the bread lately and it still hadn’t clued me in that it was a bad idea. Everyone in the scene had a “…did she really just” moment, then the other characters gently steered me toward a better approach for my breads and what the fashion really was.

At the end, the instructor pointed at me and said, “You owned that.”

 

Not really a joy

I’ve been sick for nearly two weeks now. I was never very sick, just enough to mess up my voice and sinuses and make everything I did an exercise in annoying myself and everyone around me. My voice is still recovering, much to my continued annoyance.

Along with this, a mood settled over me that I haven’t shaken yet. I sat down trying to write my positive posts and totally blanked. Which doesn’t make sense because I have plenty of things that I love and which bring me happiness. But thinking of one and writing an interesting post about it is apparently beyond me right now. And last week because I know I missed that update.

I don’t know why I feel this bad, so I don’t know how to make it go away. I’m going to do what I can and hope it improves soon. That’s all I can think of.