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. The three stupidest questions I regularly got in my 20 seasons a a renfaire performer were:

    1. Is them yer real eyes?
    2. Is that yer real hair?
    3. Is them yer real tee-its?

    ANSWER: No. I borrowed them all for the run of the show.

  2. As the father of one of you “travelling vagabonds” I want to chime in and tell everyone that I am proud of my daughter. I continuously get ask “When is she going to get a REAL job?” or “Is she ever going to go to college?” or “When is she going to get some sense and settle down and get married?”. Maybe I am more discrete and polite than I should be but I try to deflect most of these questions. I really should be a bit more aggressive and ask what business it is of theirs. My wife and I travel to some of the local festivals to watch her (and one day we’re going to try and make it to some of the more distant ones as a vacation) and I am very proud to count her as one of my successful daughters. She is doing what she wants to do, is making a career out of it, and is being a performer. So if you run into The Ginger Juggler, make sure to tell her that her parents are proud of her, because we are.

    • Great answer your and other children work hard. It is my pleasure to see them at work.
      It may take us 2 years to save. Up enough money but we go evert chance we can.
      You can be proud of them
      I am proud to call some of the actual friends

  3. I play around on street cast at faire, and can only wish I were clever and talented enough to be a stage performer. Someday. -longing sigh-

    Don’t know about the rest of the street, but to me the stage performers are like, rockstars.

  4. You forgot, “Do all these buildings move around?” I get that a lot.

  5. Nameless Coward January 8, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Please do not expect all those attending to know what you do after all your experience there. Even common and simple things like the buildings, or fire may be an honest question from someone awed by the experience. Same with directions – they seek the advice of someone less overwhelmed, and your reaction is to not only acknowledge they are newbies, but that you do know the answers they seek, but because they have a pamphlet (or at least, had one), you can’t be bothered?

    How about some humility and grace for those that come because of your performances, pay your wages to do so, and aren’t trying to be disrespectful?

    As far as the nitwits that are compelled to make the oh so clever remarks about the women – well, they need to grow up.

    The article could very much have used a few words of thanks to all who attend with good spirit and no ill intentions.

    Faire thee well

    • At no point did I get the feeling that the words written here, were the literal words spoken in such circumstances…. I got the feeling they were more likely the unfiltered, unedited thoughts that we are all too polite to actually speak to a patron for whom we are indeed grateful. A sort of “clue” to help those folks understand some of these things from a different perspective than their own. As shoppe owner, I get much the same sort of questioning. And, not being a stage performer, I have much less “rock star” and much more “consierge” status, so Ronn… Multiply your amused frustration times ten, and imagine not having the contract and paycheck to offset it.

  6. I met you back in 2006 at Renaissance Faire of the Midlands in Council Bluffs, IA. That was my first Faire. I’m still with the woman who introduced me to renaissance and brought me to that faire, in fact we’re married! I’m also totally into that renaissance shit, and have been to several different venues since. Yes, I wear the garb. I even joined a troupe and became a performer. It didn’t last long due to a conflict of interest though. The guy that ran the troupe was volunteering us to do too many free shows, had bad ideas, and wouldn’t listen to input from anybody. He agreed to do halftime shows at every game for an arena football team and insisted we walk through the stands and talk to fans promoting our show. I told him that was a bad idea, because I happen to be a football fan and know they don’t like their games interrupted. He didn’t listen, what an asshat? In the two years I did perform I did get asked if that was my only job several times, but I wasn’t offended. No, it wasn’t I only made about $600 a year doing it. I also got asked if I was wearing a cod piece, which I’m proud to say, no I’m not! What you see in my tights is god given. I had a few drunk girls ask me to show them. I think I may or may not have obliged them.

  7. One of my fondest Ren Fest experience was taking my grandma for the first time and she asked someone walking around where the bathroom was (“he’s in costume, he must know”). I don’t know if they do this at the MI Ren Fest anymore…but if you ask a performer where the bathroom is, they will happily take you to the one most furthest away. All the while yelling “Make Way! Make Way! This lady needs the privy!” Yes, I knew they would do this, yes I let it happen. 🙂

  8. In the few years my wife and I worked a large faire and quite a few small ones, the one I’d get was, “so where are all of you off to after this?” Eluding to th circus comparison

    Of course being a costumed patron meant we had all the answers to, right?

  9. #1, Child asks what is that? pointing to a sporan on my belt. I answer, “It’s a purse!” Child laughs, “Guys Don’t have a purse!”.. Me: “Ah! You must be from the group who came from the future! In this time, we never had paper money like your time has.. Our currency was in the form of coins, of gold, or copper. We never had these things called Wallets, we carrier our money in either leather sporans like this, or leather or cloth sacks.

    #2: Is that armor real? Me: “well, if it’s only a hologram, and the battery runs out, I’m not wearing anything underneath!”

    #3: Is that sword real? Can I see it? Me: “Yes, it is real, You’re looking at it, so I guess you’re also seeing it, or you wouldn’t have asked.” (I usually had it zip-tied in, unless I was on cast.)

    #4: Isn’t that armor heavy? (I’m usually wearing chain maille).. Me: My friend, this is the ORIGINAL Heavy Metal!

    #5: Why are your hands so dirty? (usually caused by the oxidized steel or aluminum of the chain maile.) I would explain the cause by the metal, and when they asked me “But doesn’t it bother your that you’;re always dirty?” I would say “Yes, But you have to remember, Knights were soldiers.. They didn’t go running to the privy every time they got dirty, and besides the point, No-one ever said war was a clean sport!”

    • Christine Griswold l May 10, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      Glad I’m not the only one in the family to work Faires. I’m old and creaky now….but: Is that like clogging? Where in world do they talk like that? Northern Ireland Did you make that (points to whatever they are interested in) yourself (corset, clothing, chain mail pretties…yes. Moccasins, flower crown, or whatever the cute accessory fad of the season, no)? How much does it cost to work here (everything more than my paycheck covers…)? Aren’t you hot…(ahem..yes, yes it is very hot)

  10. As a member of several encampments and a few fight groups over the years I’ve had the joy and delight to hear a few doozies.

    The ones that stand out are as follows:

    1: /it’s kids day at the faire and 3 little bundles of joy come up to the fence/
    Kid 1: Is that a real fire?
    Me: well…(about to unleash a sarcastic comment)
    Kid 2: nope. It’s holographic. Look in the trees for the cameras…can’t you see the smoke machine?
    Kid 1: Wow! Really?
    Kid 2: no stupid, it’s real. They are cooking their meat over it. God, you’re dumb.
    Kid 3: sorry about my friends.
    Me: /couldn’t breathe from laughing/

    Just put a huge roast over the fire to cook
    Drunk guy: whatcha cooking?
    Fire tender: our dinner
    Drunk guy: what are you going to do with that when it’s done?
    Fire tender: ummm….eat it?

    This one took the cake.

    I was part of a Blacksmith camp and we did live demonstrations all day. Kids and adults would come up with all kinds of questions. Both good and bad. This day must have been special because I was standing at the rope line after having gotten a few minor silly questions like “is that metal hot?” (It was glowing btw), “did they have metal in the renaissance?” and “do you actually live here?” When a young boy and his dad come up to watch the smith work. After watching for a few minutes the boy turns to his dad and this exchange happens:

    Boy: “Dad, what do blacksmiths make?”
    Dad {completely serious} “Blacks.”

    Myself, the main smith and another member of our camp, who were all by the ropes and heard the response, waited for him to laugh, or say “just kidding” or something. He didn’t. So we picked up our jaws and scattered before we could say something that would get us in trouble.

  11. I get several questions that weren’t covered here. “Is this real? Or did you make it? ”
    That question boggles my mind. As in the sheer fact that if I made it, it must be real. What they are asking or meaning to ask, and I had to break it down to understand is…. “was this mass produced or was this hand made.”
    I don’t know about all the faires, but most I work at have a policy about not selling store made items.
    I’ve worked all over the country as a ren worker and I get really silly questions depending on where I am. I have also worked at several different booths. I’ve sold fried dough, souvenir photography, drinking horns and finally and most commonly weapons.
    I’ve gotten everything from.
    “Is your hair real”
    “are your clothes authentic”
    “What’s blueberry and what’s maple syrup ” (Those were both in tx)
    “is it legal to sell these swords?”
    “What do you do for a living”

    If they are lucky they catch me in a good mood and I jovialy talk to them. If not in grumble some thing and move on

  12. Oh, how I miss the days of being a vendor with my husband! One question he was asked back when he was performing on the human chess board at the Castle of Muskogee was truly adorable.

    A young child, not looking where he was going, ran into my husband’s legs, slowly backed up and almost fell down as he looked up at my husband, and squeaked out “Are you a knight?”

    After which, Paul proceeded to tell him”Aye, lad!” and some story of adventure! Working with some of those kids was such an amazing reward!

  13. As a long time crafter/artist at renfair, the questions are similar, but different. “Did you make those?” probably being the most common…another is “Are those real?” One that often is asked of artisans of all kinds. Funny…..that was also the most asked question I would get personally…while they stared at my tattoos…Hehehe.

    Thanks Ron, for the eloquent and humorous article!
    Travel safe!

  14. My favorite when working with the birds of prey shows- is that a REAL BIRD?

    Most of the time I turn my hand just to offset the bird to flap its wings. But what sometimes out is, “No, it’s an amantronic bird on loan from Disney!” Ugh

  15. Good lord, YES.

    Part of my guild’s duties is to wander around with giant “ask me” signs, so it’s our job to be that wandering info booth you despise being. Trust me, we would rather get the questions than have you get them if you don’t like getting them! =)

    But yes. In my last 10 years doing faire my “favorites” have been:
    -Is that dress real? (Nope, it’s the Emperor’s New Clothes!)
    -Is that real food you’re eating? (Nope, we’re eating wax!)
    -Is that real fire? (Ugh… yeah, you covered this one)
    -Is that REALLY THE QUEEN? (Um.. well Queen at this faire, yes. And in character I will absolutely tell you yes. But no, she is not the Real Queen Elizabeth I who died ~400 years ago, nor is the the Real Queen Elizabeth II who’s a good 45 years older than my Queen and kind of busy ruling the British Commonwealth)
    -Is that a real baby? (Nope, borrowed a plastic one that only pretends to nurse and poop and vomit!)
    -Are those boobs real? (Fucking really?)
    -Annnnnd the ever-present “I’m a fucking original genius” question, “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” (Yes. You’re so original. I have never heard that one before. Ever.)

  16. I was asked “do you live here year round?” I told the guy, yes, I live under the Globe stage. It’s rather noisy during the summer, and cold in winter, but it’s home and the rats are good company. He said, ‘No you don’t.” I went on about five minutes about living on the shire, and he kept asking where I really lived. I insisted I lived under the stage. Then he asked where I was from. I told him I was born on the shire and lived there all my life. He finally gave up.

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