While the "legitimate theatre" scoffs at the
genre of Renaissance Festivals, other performers, craftspeople, specialized food
businesses, and millions of patrons revel in its resurgent vaudeville beauty.
A Renaissance Festival is a themed
event located on many acres of property, whereby a guest enters the "gate", his
whole world is transformed back to the 16th or 17th century. This world includes food,
crafts, music, variety stage shows, armored jousting, King, Queen, Royal Court, villagers,
and even games. The whole site is interactive - the visitors, often called
"patrons" (the authentic word for he/she who pays for a service), are invited to
touch, feel, listen, sing, dance, participate in shows, bow to royalty, wave turkey legs,
or just stand back and watch.
Almost no other event type can offer the intimacy and
accessibility as a Renaissance Festival offers - not "traditional theatre", not
opera, almost nothing else.
stage shows and close-up entertainment give the guests,
sometimes called "patrons" (from the old Renaissance
word meaning 'the person who pays'), an intimate day
with quality entertainment - quite a departure from far
stages in large theatres.
These Festivals approximate over 60
in the U.S. and Canada. The first events started in Southern California, in the late
1970's, but the ideas and personnel quickly spread. The large amount of events create a
"circuit" which spans late January through November; however, this circuit is so
vast that circuit participants may never meet. Each event is an individual festival (all
are not owned by one company), although corporations have now formed which own several
Muney performs in WhipFlash at the Maryland Renaissance
Festival, ca. 1997
Renaissance Festival can have up to 250,000 patrons
enter their gates in a two-month timespan, just on the
weekends! Participants or visitors learn about various events by experience, word of
mouth, or even by specialized electronic media, like the SCRIBE Network or
Ren Fest.Com. Almost all performers are professional
actors and variety artists, and the craftspeople are almost always full-time artists as
well - some festivals also make a point to give a small stage space to local community
entertainers as well.
The resurgence in vaudeville-type variety entertainment
was pushed along with the tide of Renaissance Festivals. Famous entertainers who started
their star skyward at Ren Fests include Penn & Teller (separate acts then), The Flying
Karamazov Brothers, Avner the Eccentric, and many others.
Many of the participants perform in
Renaissance Festivals for the entire year, while there are many who only do one or a few
per year. Entertainers may perform in more traditional venues for part of the year -
corporate events, school-age shows, etc, and many craftspeople also travel to arts or
street festivals. Site crews build on a permanent site all year round, improving
buildings, fortifying structures, increasing electricity or water supply. Renaissance
Festivals are a true medium all unto its own, and are now gaining the respect they