Take Two #36: How to Survive a Renaissance Faire...and other such silly things

By Kyra-lin Hom

Hello everyone! For today “How to Survive a Renaissance Faire...and other such silly things” is exactly as it sounds. I've been trying to fight, finagle, steer and plead my way out of this topic since I know this isn't everyone's scene, but my mind keeps coming full circle right back to it. Why? I'll tell you.

Since graduating college and moving back to the Seattle area, I have finally succumbed and joined several of my friends in a group called “The Seattle Knights.” This is a stunt fighting troupe that specializes in Medieval-style combat reenactment. It is both as cool and as geeky as it sounds. These people are the real deal – like a local version of the shows you might see in Las Vegas' Excalibur Hotel. They know their showmanship and western martial arts history inside and out. They are not associated with that pathetic display seen on America's Got Talent a few months back.

For those who are wondering, yes, the swords, axes, maces, etc. are real – dull but still potentially effective. Yes, the armor will stop an arrow. And yes, the chainmaille is no Hollywood costume. Having just recently worn chainmaille for the first time, I have the sore back, neck and shoulders to prove it too. Does my mother revel in the idea of me crossing swords? Not exactly, but I have a decent enough background in eastern martial arts (anything coming out of the Asian nations) that she's at least accustomed to the idea. Besides, it's not like they just shove swords in our hands and tell us to try not to kill each other. Students start out learning the footwork with plastic swords aimed in the generally right directions. It isn't until the teachers deem us newbies “not dangerous” that we're allowed to play with the real weapons.

The point of all this, besides fun, is the shows. The Seattle Knights' specialties are the Renaissance and fantasy festivals that can be found all over everywhere during the summer months, but they also do film, commercials, other sorts of live combat, and pretty much anything else that involves a choreographed western-style fight. Now at these shows, we're there for you. Yes, even us lowly, gear-hauling students are there to entertain you the audience. We, along with all of the other festival participants, are there to pull you into another world. And you'd better believe we have a lot of fun doing it too.

Say I've convinced you and you want to scour the internet for a local faire – be it medieval, fantasy, faerie, pirate or what have you – and go to it. What should you know ahead of time? Well first off, because of the environment the faire is trying to create, it will likely be in nature. It could be in a park, but it will just as likely be in woods or a field way off the beaten path. So good shoes are a must. Next, bring cash. Some of the larger festivals will have booths that accept cards or their own ATM machines but don't count on it. Play it safe and bring your own cash. Even if you don't want to buy lots of leather bodices or velvet cloaks, you might want to sample the local mead or chicken thighs. It's all part of the experience after all. Other essentials are sunblock for obvious reasons, an extra jacket because shady forests are cooler than you'd expect, and water because you just never know if any will be available.

As for dressing up, I only have two words: do it! Have fun and don't worry about whether or not your outfit is spot on. No one is expecting you to have a perfectly appropriate costume just hiding in the back of your closet. Dressing up shows a bit of playfulness and hired actors like the Seattle Knights are more likely to interact with you if they think you'll play along. The only exception is that I don't recommend you bring your own weapons, which leads me to my last piece of advice: be safe, smart and kind. Don't challenge an actor to a fight or try and seize their weapon. Don't insult a performer or craftsman. And really don't interfere with an official act in progress unless specifically told you can do so. You may think you're being clever, but you're likely just being irritating at best and dangerous at worst.

So there you have it. Come, find a faire nearby and play with us. Now I have to run, quite literally, to my next show. Until next time!

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