I’m Ronn Bauman. For the past 24 years I’ve been the louder, longer-haired, more sexually ambiguous third of the original Tortuga Twins comedy trio. I know that’s a bit confusing but when I tell you that there’s actually SIX Tortuga Twins now – all sensibility just flutters out the window. Our hostess, the talented and decorative Rhonni – acting in the role as editor and curator of this site – has invited me to step in as a guest author from time to time to share my rather unique perspective and dreadful writing style. Besides being a member of arguably one of the most successful Renaissance Festival Acts, I’m also a businessman. I own a series of booths and attractions at faires throughout the country. But enough about me – Today, on a very special episode of Blossom I will discuss the Ten Most Common (and ridiculous) questions asked of Renaissance Festival Entertainers.
Q: Is this your real job?
A: Regrettably, yes. Gloriously yes and hell yes! Though there are the occasional, part time stage performers – I was originally going to write “Odd” but we’re all odd if we’re doing this – in most instances if you’re commanding a major stage at one of the big festivals across the country you are a full time professional. This is not only the way we stage performers support ourselves and in many instances our families it is also something we created, we honed, we fought for and promoted. It is a lot harder and a lot more rewarding than you’d ever guess. This is our real job and we LOVE it.
Q: Would like me to take you to our house for a home-cooked meal?
A: You know it’s never a good idea to generalize, so of course I’m going to. There are more-or-less two classes of Festival Stage Performer– the newer kids are mostly in it for chasing tail and drinking heavily; they’ll be too busy partying to take you up on your kind invitation. Then there are the older and more established acts like my troupe. I go home every night to a comfortable abode and lovely meal prepared by my very-own wife in my very-own home. Both groups of performers appreciate your offer and realize that we look like homeless waifs; we’re not. Let us all just say “Thanks, we got this”.
Q: What do you do the rest of the week?
A: You know those two groups of entertainers I talked about? Our off-time recreation agenda often breaks down along those same class lines. When we were young, dumb, and full of … youth, we thought our work week was only two days a week and we spent our copious off- times reading, sullying the reputation of young locals, drinking, dancing and watching a LOT of movies. As we matured – or as some would have you believe – slowed down; we started to treat this as more of a career and less of a party. Once you reach that level you’ll find that you spend a lot of time in writing new material, promoting the act – especially in the age of social media, developing and marketing merchandise and, less frequently drinking, dancing, and sullying the reputation of more mature locals. I am also the owner and manager of several successful renaissance festival businesses on the side – so another portion of my “off-time” is taken up bookkeeping, doing inventory, filing taxes and generally keeping the retail sales and amusements machine running smoothly. Regrettably, with all of this going on many of us we have less time to watch movies or read than we used to.
Q: We hear there’s a really wild after-party. Where is it? Can we come?
A: Oh there are parties. Yes there are. I always like to describe the Funky Formal -thrown annually at each festival – as a cross between a Prom, and the sort of party your parents were always terrified that you’d attend. On any given night – but especially on Fridays and Saturdays – there will be wild things going on in the tents and dark places throughout the festival site. But most of these Caligulan (I just created that adjective!) Bacchanals are put on by the local, amateur performers and not the professional, touring entertainers. Many of us have families and homes and we realize that the key to a successful show is NOT to be drinking till dawn. But Yes, it does happen and No, you probably aren’t invited.
Q: What are you on?
A: Even some of the biggest partiers I know – I’m looking at YOU Ded Bob – know that you cannot pull-off a professional and worthwhile performance while you’re messed up. Or at least – you won’t be able to for long. Some acts – I’m looking at YOU Barely Balanced – might actually DIE if they tried to do their show without being 100% focused mentally and physically. Some acts – I’m looking at you, comic hack writing this column – have found that you can get away with, or even build a career around being drunk onstage… but even that is not always what it seems. So short answer here: We’re high on life… and sometimes vodka.
Q: Did you go to school for this?
A: Most folks don’t know that there is an academy in South Dakota where all stage performers study to learn their amazing skills and develop their rapier wit. This secret facility, hidden beneath Roosevelt’s head on Mount Rushmore… No? Not buying it? Some stage performers have had a smattering of matriculation to develop their skills, some are born into and raised to do it, but the majority is self-taught nerds who developed these skills to meet hot people to date… Ironically, this never works.
Q: What do your parents think of your job performing on stage?
A: I’d rather not speak for all entertainers on this one. My mother is proud of me but still, deep down in her heart-of-hearts wants me to cut my hair, go back to my (former) real job in the U.S. Navy, and stop all of this whacky traveling tomfoolery. I suspect most entertainers receive a spectrum from deep pride to deeper shame from their parents.
Q: Is that Fire Real?
A: This is a question often asked of the jugglers and fire eaters who use fire in their performances. No, really. I like to lump these jaw-dropping, amazingly uniformed (or thoughtless) questions into a category I like to call the “Are you F-ing kidding me” file. They happen often and are flabbergasting. One of my personal favorites is being asked by a patron at a faire with huge, stucco-and-timber buildings “Do you guys tear all of this down and rebuild it every year?” *sigh*
Q: Do you all travel together?
A: This question though remarkably common, doesn’t annoy me like some of the others do. My response usually goes like this: “We’re not a circus. We don’t pack up and travel on a big train from town-to-town. We’re independent contractors hired by the festivals we wish to work at. There are folks who we will see at more than one festival, and there are others we will only see once a year. We all tend to have a specific circuit that we repeat each year and we all look forward to our return but I’ll be driving a huge Ford pickup, not riding the rails when I come back”.
Q: Where is the… ?
A: I get it, we’re approachable. That’s part of the job description. I also get that we’re “wearing the suit”. Why wouldn’t you ask your general information questions of us? It’s like the many times I have asked strangers at Best Buy where the widescreen TVs or the printer ink was – just because they happened to be wearing a blue shirt. But whether it’s: “Where’s the Beer?” Or “Where’s the Joust?”, “Where’s the Bathroom?” or even “Where’s the front gate” The answer is usually clearly marked, pretty obvious, and if not immediately apparent – it can be easily determined by even the most cursory examination of the PROGRAM and MAP we forced into your oblivious fist when you first walked through our gates. I freely admit that this is (mostly) my hang up… but I’m not going to apologize for pointing to the map or the program and telling you condescendingly “Literacy is hard!”
I’d like to include one final stunner that I have never personally been asked but I’ve known several female performers who have had to riposte this brain-numbingly sexist stunner.
Q: What does your husband do so that he can support you playing like this?
A: Oh Dear GOD. I know that this event is supposed to be a reenactment of the Sixteenth Century but please; spare me your medieval thinking. This chauvinist expectation – voiced as often by women as men – has made it even harder for female performers to earn their way as professional entertainers. Each and every hard-working female entertainer I have ever met does this for a living just as the boys do. To assume otherwise is degrading. Please stop; you’re embarrassing yourself and us.
That should hold you all off until next time. If you see me in the streets of your local Renaissance Festival please, feel free to stop me, say hello, and even ask me any question you wish – though I’m telling you: if it’s one of the eleven above you do run the slightest risk of me actually snapping and inflicting a modicum of bodily harm. Best of luck!