10 Most Common & Ridiculous Questions Asked of Ren Fest Entertainers

Ronn Bauman —  March 21, 2013 — 90 Comments

Hi there

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.

You’re kidding! … Right?!?                        (ps … this is not a photo of Ronn, you can see him in the Author Bio Box below)

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”.

And finally

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!

Ronn Bauman

Ronn Bauman

Ronn Bauman is a fine example of what can happen when “The Class Clown” goes out into the world and learns how to make a living by capitalizing on his personality quirks. Besides being a popular stage performer for almost three decades; he’s an entrepreneur and owner and/or manager of many successful Renaissance Festival businesses. In conjunction with his wife Heather – Also a successful entrepreneur - he plans to control every commercial Renaissance Festival enterprise Rhonni hasn’t already captured! You can learn more about his show at tortugatwins.com and read his well-regarded and damned-funny advice column at comichacksguide.com

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90 responses to 10 Most Common & Ridiculous Questions Asked of Ren Fest Entertainers

  1. Don Kilcoyne

    Brilliant. And as a hybrid performer/vendor as well, may I add some of the best questions I’ve heard over the counter at my pewter demo?
    1) Q. Can I have this for free? A. Yes, if I can keep your child.
    2) Q. Is that real? A. No, it’s a hologram—a 550° liquid metal hologram, so move your fingers away, please.
    3) Q. You know I can make this myself, right? A. Yes, but you won’t. So buy mine.

    • I always find #3 laughable when I hear it, mostly because those of us who actually can have enough respect for the vendor and the fact that we’re browsing his/her wares to not make a big deal of it. As a general rule, anyone who says #3 likely can’t and won’t ever be bothered to learn how.

    • OMFG. “Is this real?” Well, yeah, that’s really a gold coin, that’s why it’s a dollar, and is where you can steal it… “Is this real?” Yes. It is corporeal. (THAT one usually makes them go away!)

  2. Another one that I hear a lot as a female Renaissance Performer is, ” Airn’t you afraid those are going to fall out?”

  3. I just wanted to say that this is a very well written article. I loved your showed last year and was happy to see it. It is obvious to myself and my husband that you all put a good deal of work in on this. I hope to see you perform for more years. We attend the Minnesota Ren Festival. Thank for making me laugh and if we are able to come down again, we will stop and see your show.

  4. I always got asked if “mine” are real. Yes, they are, and no you can’t touch them.

  5. I am happy to say I don’t think I have ever asked any of those questions or given that attitude to a performer. No I’m the one who asks thins like Do you write your own material? Have you ever gotten asked on a date by a ‘fan? How do you deal with the patrons that are too drunk to be there let alone drive? Things like that.

    I’m also happy to have been poked by a Facebook post to find this article. And I will say you inspire others to become wittier and more entertaining in every day life. I have taken some of the attitude i see on stages in performances tones it down and used it to get through some of the rougher points in life. HUGS

  6. Ha! I really enjoyed this. Had to *face palm* some of the stupider questions asked but admit guiltily to always wanting to know where the party was at the end of the day. But it’s good and refreshing to have it reiterated that underneath it all you guys (and gals) are professionals and what’s more: human beings. And that’s what’s all the more remarkable about what you do: you conjure magic and awe, and give all us mortals in the 21st century an escape from banality and reality. Thank you for all your hard work.

    Viva Tortuga!!!

  7. It’s funny that question 10 is about using a map and the picture is of the NYRF. I have been going to the NYRF for many years and the map they provide gets ME lost at times. In addition to that, some of the venues have been closed, some (like the maypole) have moved, and some (like the Silver Swan Stage) have had their names changed.

    • Tony,
      I’m the guilty party with the NYRF photo. Ronn knew nothing about it. However, how could I pass up that expression on Kelly Kilcoyne’s face to express the incredulity that some of these questions inspire?

  8. Don’t forget “Are those real?” Which is usually followed by “Aren’t you afraid they’ll fall out?” Yes, I have big boobs. Yes, they’re real, you dolt. No, you can’t touch them! And no, they won’t fall out. Grow up.

  9. Well said, Ronn, well said.

  10. I’ve gotten that last question multiple times. It really is terribly insulting. Don’t ever ask a female entertainer what her husband does to support her! You know what, my husband is also a professional musician and we work at the same venues. When I started performing full time I was single and I supported myself without a man for many years. Please crawl back under your rock.

    I’m also often asked about the after-parties and drugs and the like. It baffles me. These are people who’ve been watching me perform. What I do clearly requires concentration, energy, and fine motor skills. I’m always sober and straight when I perform, and I’m not partying the night away. Apparently I make playing the harp look too easy. Successful renaissance professionals do not party on the weekends, because we have jobs to do! If and when we party we do it on Wednesdays, when we have days to recover. I write this on a Thursday morning, nursing a bottle of water and regretting that last gin and tonic.

  11. Ronn,

    I’ve met you a couple of times at the Az Ren Fest in Apache Jct, and seen your show many times. Its obvious to me that you are all professionals, because only professionals could make it all seem so effortless…I have a huge amount of respect for the performers, and the merchants too, I have seen…and while some of them are a little standoffish, many of them are genuine and just normal people having fun and ‘playing’.

    That’s one reason why my wife and I started our website design business, where we try and cater to the special needs of the travelers. It certainly isn’t to make a huge buck, but just a way to bring in a little extra revenue, but also to support those people that allow us to come and have fun too…

    Thanks for the insight into your lives, and if there is some way we can be of service, feel free to reach out to us.

    Hats off to you all

  12. Well, the problem with the maps is often I am standing where the map show the whatever is supposed to be, but apparently the twelve year old who drew it in crayon 20 years ago had problems with spacial relationship conversion from 3D real world too 2D format. So, that at least seems legit. As for many of the other questions, and appropriately stupid answer is perfectly acceptable. But understand that many of your Faire guests are N00Bs and their best correlation of your career is carvnie trash. Or maybe even Circus performers. They fail to understand that you are artists and professionals. I thank you for the years of entertainment I have received from your hard work.

    • Well Erie, I don’t think it was meant that way, but I have to say that all of the Circus Performers I know are Artists and Professionals as well.

    • In my experience Circus performers are also extremely professional and hard working, though they often have even less “time off” then renaissance festival professionals. 🙂

    • As a circus performer, I’m gonna second what Rhonni said below. I have a BA in Theater and an MFA in playwriting. I’ve trained at a number of circus schools and so have most of the performers I know. I make better money than when I was a college professor, and I don’t have to go to committee meetings.

      I realize you mean well, and I just want to communicate to you that your perception of circus performers is largely incorrect.

      I’m even gonna stand up for carnies here, and say that guys who can manage to move 15-20 games, rides and concessions from town to town while complying with state, local, and federal regulations on everything from taxes to insurance to safety rules to local mores, is probably doing something right.

  13. My favorite is “Are you really French/Italian/German/Spanish/etc.?” Of course, I am, I’m speaking Franglais in an awful accent, silly! Sometimes I actually convince them. (Teehee.) And of course, the fact that I do speak French makes it quite a lot of fun to show my cards when people think they’re calling my bluff. Take that, asshat.

  14. THANK YOU!! Well said!!

  15. Being of the “part-time rennie” category, i do enjoy when I get to work the various shows in my area (MA/NH, mostly) and take great pride in doing my best, regardless of whether I am part of the cast or working as a vendor. I do my best to get to site early, make sure I am looking my best and ready to go, with everything I need for the day in it’s proper place.
    I also do my best to give honest answers even to (more than a few of) the dumbest questions asked, including the ones listed. Granted, I’ll usually start with a smart-aleck reply, but if I can see the person is quite honest in their interest, I will try to give them the best explanation I can. I am almost always gratified to be given heartfelt thanks for dispelling misconceptions about some of the things that we do.

  16. i think my favorite of all time was an apoplexy-inducing version of “do corsets hurt,” but this one took the cake: “don’t them thangs peench yer nipples?” i still to this day have no idea how a corset could manage to pinch a nipple. well, unless it were specially equipped somehow, but that’s another kettle of fish. i am really enjoying being off the road, and i still “raise a jar to every tar who has the urge to roam.” boring travels, my friends.

  17. Molly Gypsy Rose Wench March 21, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    LOL. Good job, Ronn- you missed my perennial favorite, however, which is “is that your real accent?” and my second fave, which is “are you eating that because you want to or because they make you?”

  18. I might be able to top one of yours. What is your name? I took a group from the high school that I was teaching at to the Ohio Ren Faire School Day and I went in garb. A large group of students came up to me and asked what my name was. I calmly replyed “Most of them call me Coach Hart.” The teacher following behind them caught on immediately and did his best to surpress his laughter as the questions continued. After three or four more questions, the students finally got it. I was not one of the performers.

  19. I ran Wax Hands at King Richard’s Faire for 15 years. We actually had the ” Dumb patron questions” such as: Where the tigers at? Is the hot wax hot? or my favorite Are the wax roses chocolate?

  20. The funny thing is when I dress up in my costume, got to my local Ren Fest (CORF in Larkspur, CO) and people approach me for that last question all the time. I always laugh and point them in the right direction. Luckily I’ve gone so many times that I know the place well. It’s funny that people assume when you are in costume you work there, as if the people who do are completely lost within all the people who dress up too. Maybe that’s what happens when you do dress up. *shrug*

  21. AAAaaaagh. I feel for you! This is why I’m in the SCA instead of being a Fairegoer. When we’re all together at an event I won’t get this kind of question, and if I don’t feel like getting stupid questions, I can avoid public demos. Doesn’t keep my friends/family from asking stupid questions (“Why are they making you dress so strangely?” was a favorite of mine from way back…from my MOM), but those are friends/family–I already like them or know how to put up with them!

  22. I am a Ren musician and I play a large unwieldy instrument (Irish harp). When I am particularly crabby (for instance, when I have already played 3 stage sets and 2 dance sets for the nobles and I have been asked to please go over there in the noon sun and entertain the people standing in the very long food lines) I have been known to tear the heads off people who jovially ask, “Boy, I’ll bet you wish you’d taken up the flute!”

  23. Are ThOSE real? Both at my overflowing bodice and my BF’s Blades and Chainmail. The answer to both is STILL “no, you can’t touch them!”

    We also get the gambit of- “So you sell herbs & spices… DO you have any HERB?” I love answering that with- ‘No but if you ask the nice man in the blue uniform- he will help you….” (Sometimes they even will ask the policeman- LOL)

    What do you do in “real” life? answer- “same thing but in a shop in riverside… yes these ARE our work clothes…”

  24. Hi! Awesome article, by an awesome gentlemen. I’d really been wondering about a lot of these, so it’s great to get more info!

  25. Seriously with you on all of these, but please don’t be rude to people who are asking for directions. The maps are ALWAYS lousy, and you do want good word of mouth.

    • Sarah, I’m with you on being nice. I think Ronn is in a unique position there, in that folks have watched him be nothing but snarky and funny on stage, and expect something similar from him in the street.

  26. I don’t mind the questions so much. At least it means they’re engaging with you, human to human. Sorta. It’s when they treat you like you’re on TV and can’t hear them or see them that’s kind of irritating. Less a problem for the shows than for the street performers, I suppose.

    Another fun one is when you’re doing a lunch gig, and they walk right up and stick their fingers in your food and ask, “Is this real?” No, honey, we’re just actors so we eat plastic.

  27. LOVE. As a costumer I can add, though they aren’t really questions, “Corsets are so uncomfortable!!” (not if they’re made correctly to your measurements, that’s why I prefer doing custom corsets) and “That’s too expensive” (I understand that my foam fighting market is mainly broke college students so I try to keep my prices as low as possible, but I have bills to pay, so please don’t disrespect my efforts by saying it’s not worth the tag I put on it).

  28. This:
    “I’d rather not speak for all entertainers on this one.”
    Should have been front and center. 😉

  29. Sorry, but I’ve been to RenFests and been insulted by the performers as our family has walked by. “Here comes the boy who was dropped on his head as a baby” (about my autistic son) and the ever popular “Doesn’t that hurt?” (asked about a torque I was wearing). It’s not only the fans who say inappropriate things.

    • I’m sorry this was your experience. We know it happens. We wish it did not. But I would like to say that part of the intention of this site is to share “best practices” amongst the industry. There has never been a place to share the information before, and those of us that do carry ourselves as professionals are striving to clue-in the others. We have an upcoming article about building improvisation skills. I’m not sure whether or not this issue will be addressed, as I am not the author; but I’ll make sure he sees your comment.

    • Don Kilcoyne

      Cynthia, I’m sad to hear you had a bad experience with Ren Faire folks. One of the reasons I’ve spent so many years working at one is that Ren Faire people tend to be very generous spirits. I teach Improv for the performance company at the New York Ren Faire and one of the things we stress in workshops is that every visitor is an Honored Guest. I sincerely hope we would never treat you or your family as anything less. Don

  30. The most common questions I get are, “Are you hot in that?” and ” is that real food the Queen is eating?” I want to say ‘ it’s 95 out here and I’m wearing a couch on my back while you have on a tank top and shorts and are sweating up a storm, So Yeah I’m roasting in this big dress, But I’ll never say that, but I do think it, oh yes I do. And as for the food, I don’t get it why are people so enamored by how we eat, and what we eat, I find it strange that they think we are eating fake food. But the BEST QUESTION of all time has got to be ” Is that a REAL BABY or one of those Disney Animatronic ones?” I kid you not I heard the lady say it myself. FYI we let her touch the baby because shouldn’t believe it was real! I love people.

  31. My fiance John Kilroy that passed away a year ago, just yesterday, was a Huge fan of your act. Matter of fact I found his tee-shirt tonight of the Tortuga Twins. Just wanted to say I wish I could have gotten to see you in action. He told me many stories of times he had seen you perform!

  32. I understand, but some people are new to this world, and just genuinely want to know more about what you do. The questions might be kinda silly, but its still kind of nice for people to show interest in your work or lifestyle. You don’t have to be so hard on the people who pay to see you do your thing! Anyway, I’d also like to address the last question – people asking what your husband does to support you. Yeah, it’s ignorant, but a lot of people just can’t even fathom enjoying their lives. They work their butts off at jobs they hate and just assume it’s the only way to get by in life, because that’s what they were taught. When they see people ENJOYING their work, they assume there must be a catch, because according to what they’ve been taught, it’s just not possible to make a living doing what you enjoy! It’s sad really. You should just proudly proclaim that you make a very nice living doing what you love, and send them off maybe with some new ideas about life! It’s a chance to inspire people 🙂 I know that people scratch their heads at me constantly because I have a very comfortable life with my husband, nice cars, vacations, lots of free time, etc. Neither of us works a 9-5. Some people can NOT wrap their heads around it! I usually feel more sad for those people than offended by them.

    • Sherie,
      You are saying the same things I say all of the time. One of the reasons I started this site was to unveil the business-face of the festival industry. Many of us make comfortable livings doing exactly what we most love doing. And other people are hungry to hear about it.

      I’m hoping to bring in more aspects of this as the site evolves. There will be articles about full-timing in RVs, the challenges and opportunities of homeschooling on the road, and hopefully many article subjects that I haven’t even considered yet.

      Thanks for your input. I’m really interested in the conversation people have with themselves about how things are “supposed” to work for them.

  33. Ha, great article. I and several of my friends are regular attendees of our local Ren Fest and always go in full costume if possible (including armor). We’re recognized by most of the fair regulars and are practically considered an “informal” act. As a result we get asked most of these questions, especially “aren’t you hot?” It’s May, it’s 95 degrees with max humidity, and I’m wearing full leather armor. Yes, I’m hot. But I really enjoy it, it’s always some of the most fun I have all year! I have great respect for the ones who make it their job and their life to do these acts.

  34. “Do you travel with the fair?”
    “How do you take your booth from show to show?”
    How about the guy from the local SCA that takes it upon himself/herself to ‘correct’ the historical discrepancies (usually from the comfort of his rayon costume)?
    But my favorite is not a question. It is the guy who is intimidated by one of the performer’s swords and decides he has to get aggressive. Really, tough guy? It is always amanzing to me that, since in the movies the hero always defeats the sword-wielding protagonist, that a sword is somehow not a deadly weapon…

    • That guy is always about four sheets to the wind, too. Patrons we’ve had who decided to get aggressive about weapons were never sober. We actually had a girl pull what looked like a real knife on our king. Fortunately it wasn’t real, but she found herself escorted away VERY quickly.

  35. Angie
    I am so sorry for your loss and we hope that you DO come to see us some time. Perhaps by sharing a passion of John’s you can for however brief a moment reminisce and to some small degree lessen your pain? You can find our schedule at tortugatwins.com. We look forward to making you smile.

  36. Well done Ronn… I’m sure you can do this list different every week if you wanted to with the questions we get. Look forward to more of your writing and seeing you again this year up in New England

  37. christine simeone March 24, 2013 at 11:24 am

    You could write another list for artist/craftspeople, although most of these are appropriate also. Don Kilcoyne hit a few up top there.
    I like the shocked look on someone’s face when I come to my booth to deliver freshly made bodices with scissors around my neck and they look at my workers, then look at me and say “you mean you actually make this stuff?”
    Years ago, we ALL made the stuff. Now it’s a novelty and people assume you’re buying it from another country.
    And that last one applies to we that sell also.
    The many creative ways people try to get you to lower your prices, and how one handles that could be a good topic for another article.

    • Christine…

      I can identify with you, as one of our clients is Sibella and Danton Dodge, with their handpainted capes. One of the challenges they had last year was finding an additional sew-er for their capes. I just happened to be able to suggest someone in my hometown that does sewing and alterations, but that is amazing at costuming and period clothing. Give Elizabeth a pattern, or even a picture, and she can do it, and in ‘production’ mode, is quite affordable. And along the way, we became not only their web design providers, but friends also with both of these businesses…Helping Sibella and Danton was what motivated us in starting up our little business of web/graphic design and trying to cater to the Ren folk. You guys have it hard enough out there on road, where and when we can help, we will.

      No Chinese factory workers here…Just good old Made in small town USA (my little town has about 8000 people in the town and outlying area). And someone she could trust to not copy her patterns and painting designs and head out on the Ren circuit on their own. Went WAY beyond what you would think a web design company would go, but that’s just how we are.

      As far as haggling, I suspect some amount is expected. But the Ren merchants need to make some money too, and unless they have an online presence or the week-job, they don’t really have any other opportunities except for that weekend.

    • It just occurred to me that merchants should have large “made in the USA” signs in their booths. I know this clashes with the fantasy that we’re all in Renaissance Europe, but it might inspire some people to buy, and it would definitely help guests to understand why an outfit isn’t $29.95 like it is a Party City.

  38. Great article! It’s been a few years, but I used to run with a troupe in the Midwest that never made the “big time” of Fests… we were mired in the “minor leagues” of tent fairs that pop up for a weekend or two and disappear for the rest of the year. I was asked many of the same questions, but some of the answers were a little different of course. (I WISH this was my real job!) Since we were a live steel act, most of our problems were dealing with the drunks who wanted to handle our weapons or actually challenged us to fights. I even had a guy once try to draw my cutlass off my hip, an attempt only foiled by the peace-tie. I’d gladly answer all the stupid questions in the world with a cheerful smile rather than have to deal with a belligerent drunk.

  39. An interesting read – thanks for putting it together.

    One thing, and I know you probably were just joking about reading the programs/maps – but an amazingly high percentage of our society is functionally illiterate. Someone might be simply lazy by asking you instead of looking at the program, but it’s possible the next guy is actually ashamed he can’t read the program, and he really could use your help. I have in the past taught reading skills to functionally illiterate adults, so this jumped out at me.

    • Functionally illiterate or not the most common “where is” question I get is the the bathrooms and from my booth you can see the giant red waving banner that represents the privies in plain line of site.

      It is not about inabilities in most cases, it’s just too lazy to look around and try to figure it out for yourself when it’s easier to interrupt someone else and ask them.

  40. valerie bobincheck March 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I spent several afternoons filling in for a friend at a Renn Faire. I demonstrated Elizabethan Blackwork embroidery techniques. The other gals in the group were kindness, itself. Filling me in on what to say, etc.Especially as I was only there for a few days. Thankfully, we were mostly seated in the shade. I have nothing but admiration for all the workers. It was a wonderful and I would like to do it again, sometime. Unfortunately, right now, my first love is teaching. But maybe when I retire…..

  41. I am part of an encampment at our local faire. We have heard “is that fire real” – no but for $19.99 and 20 D cells you can one too. We cook over our fire and have numerous times gotten “Do you really eat that food” and my all time favorite occurred one day when one of our members was sitting with her year old baby on a blanket – “is that a real baby?”

  42. As a gamer, it astounds me the number of times a day I get asked if someone can just play my game for free if they don’t take any prizes if they win. This is the second most common question I’m asked. The first most common being specific to my game “Catapulting Frogs” where they always ask “Are the frogs real?” To wich my answer is “YES! You can see them, you can touch them, you can feel them, that makes them real not imaginary like my girlfriend!”

  43. Sometimes I go to the fair in costume, and one year a little girl asked me a question I wouldn’t have understood if we hadn’t just been to Disney: “Are you a character?” We happened to be standing near the costume rental shop, so I told her I was just dressed like a character, and she and her mommy could go to the costume shop and play dress-up, too. I can just imagine how Ronn would have replied!

  44. Hell, I get a lot of these just as a costumed patron (“playtron”), I can’t even fathom how many times you guys as performers/cast hear these and countless other ridiculous questions throughout a season.

  45. My favorite all time comment was, “If I didn’t have to have a real job, I would love to work here!”

  46. My favorite all time comment was, “If I didn’t have to have a real job, I would love to work here!”

    My second favorite was, “I would like to speak with the owner.” That’s me, how may I help you? “No, the real owner.” OK, I’m the owner, how may I help you? “No, the owner of all this , the company that makes this.” That would be me, and I’m sure I can answer any question you have. How may I help you? (She ended up walking away looking confused.)

  47. I do gunfight reenactments and living history of the Old West, we get similar questions.

    “Do you use real bullets?” No, it would be hard to get that many new members every year.
    “Are those real guns?” Nah, they’re plastic and we make the sound of them firing.
    “Doesn’t it hurt when you fall down?” Yes, but falling down is easy; the hard part is getting back up, especially as you grow older.
    Be fun to write a book sometimes.

  48. Stephen Griswold January 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    I’ve had kids always ask me, Is that a real sword? Now, mind you, it’s zip-tied in, mainly because of faire site rules. (safety, never challenging, though I have been known to go rogue, clip the tie, do a quick & dirty knighting, then need to get a new zip-tie.) It’s strictly a costume grade, I’ve had it for close to 10 years now. The edges are deliberately filed flat. But, I always keep it tied-in, and when I used to work security at a faire, and people would complain “Why do you need to tie it in?”, I’d give them a bit of a story, not 100% true, that we don’t worry about them with the sword, At least we hope they’re responcible with the weapon, But we’re more worried about the people around them, who could decide It’s time to go ‘Conan’, grab the nearest sword, and start whacking people. If they still bawlk, I’ll give a story about a faire out west where someone grabbed someone else’s sword, and at least 4 people were injured before the person who grabbed it was subdued. (And believe me, I’ve seen plenty who were Big, Burly, and Plenty drunk, who could possibly do this.).. There were instances of a school group at the same faire, who decided to try out the quarterstaffs at one vender, and someone DID get hit by accident, because one of the kids wasn’t paying attention who was behind him. I’ve always lived by a code, that I’m sure any performer will agree with.. No-One is allowed to touch a knight’s sword, Unless that knight hands it to them. Because then, they show respect for the weapon, and it’s owner. And, if they still use it against the owner, The owner should’ve known better..

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