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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- Me and my sister make a great, entertaining team.
That one’s certainly not new, but we kicked it off with a spectacular bit.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.