Tag Archives: ren faire
I’m going on hiatus. This season of CRF will be my last faire season.
I don’t know how long this hiatus will go on. I’ve sworn to wait the entirety of 2016 before I make any decisions, and in the meantime I am trying to focus on the here and now and get healthy.
The last fiveish years have been really difficult. At some point in late 2013 I wrote “I am burned the fuck out” in a post I never finished, and that feeling never went away; it only got worse. I began seeing a therapist after finishing Scarborough this year, and I’ve been diagnosed with depression and general anxiety disorder. I need a break from travel, stage fright, homesickness, post-show depression, worrying about money, being sick, and the physical and emotional demands of performance, the venue, and juggling two or three jobs. I’ve got a full time job that is enjoyable enough and pays well enough to keep at for the foreseeable future. mr. biscuit and I are working on getting our debt paid off, and I’m working on getting healthy.
I attended my first renaissance festival in the fall of 1992 or 1993. My friend’s family took me and my sister. The next 7 or 8 years my family went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival for a weekend every year. I loved it. I would cry when it was time to leave at the end of the day. In 2004, as a college sophomore, I auditioned for and got hired to be on the cast. It was a dream come true, and this is what I said about opening day (courtesy my livejournal):
“Ren Fest was the absolute shit, I’m tired beyond all reason, my poor breasts are sunburned, and I haven’t stopped smiling in about 3 hours.”
I spent six years on the cast of the Georgia Renaissance Festival, and for the most part they were excellent years. How many things happened there? I can’t even begin to tell you. I met mr. biscuit, and any number of my closest friends. I discovered within myself a talent and affinity for this very particular type of performance. I made a lot of people smile. And I had a shit load of fun. Leaving was one of the hardest decisions I had made up to that point, but I left to pursue other opportunities. When I told the entertainment director that I would not be returning for the coming season, I already had plans to go after the Scarborough Renaissance Festival. I got in. And after years of trying, I got into the Carolina Renaissance Festival. And I did really well. I met more dear friends, and developed a funny, tight, high-energy, educational, empowering act that can be as intimate or broad as the situation warrants. And I made money, and I had the time of my life, and I learned how to sew.
Esperanza began as a Spanish pirate who was in England trying to track down King Henry VIII in revenge for the death of her mother. She evolved into a Recruitment Officer for the Spanish Army, building an army on English soil. This is how the costume looked my first year:
And this is how the costume looks now:
In between, we had this:
And somewhere along the line I wore myself out.
I don’t know where I’m going from here. My goal is to get healthy—to manage my allergies/asthma, my IBS, my increasingly difficult periods, and my anxiety and depression to a better degree than I am currently managing. I just want to have more good days than bad days. We want to get to a better financial place, to pay off our credit card and student loans so that we can take care of our aging cats and get a new car when we need to and afford to move again when our lease is up, and rebuild our retirement savings after the huge hit they’ve taken in the last few years, and maybe save to buy a place. We want to continue the progress we’ve made towards making our living space pleasant, beautiful, and well-organized(ish). I want to celebrate Halloween and Easter in a way that doesn’t mean working.
This decision was mine and mine alone. I consulted my most trusted advisors over and over again, but ultimately the only person I have to thank/blame is myself. It’s hard to walk away from something I worked to get for years. In pursuit of this dream I spent years going all over the country on my own dime to try and convince entertainment directors to hire me. I cried and struggled and swore and panicked and learned to sew, and eventually I succeeded, and then…I stopped. I know I made the right decision—when I sent the emails to my entertainment directors, I felt a huge sense of relief. But if there is one thing that art students hear over and over again, it’s “don’t give up;” it’s hard to feel like I’m not giving up.
Then again, maybe I am. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this. I love this work, but the things that go with it—travel, shitty working conditions, illness, iffy income, anxiety, homesickness—are just so hard to manage. Maybe I’m just not cut out for those things. Maybe the joy of the work—and there is so much joy in it for me, so that I sometimes feel like I’m going to explode from it—is not enough to carry me through the attendant trials and tribulations. Maybe I’ll never do this again.
Then again, maybe it is, and maybe I will.
I don’t know.
And I’m ok with that.
I’ve wanted a collared bodice for a long time. I like the way collars frame my face, and the back of the neck is an enormously awkward place to put sunscreen.
I finally got around to making one.
I’m so proud of it I could poo.
I’m in the middle of the Carolina Renaissance Festival, and it’s cold. Previously my biggest concern in outdoor performance was staying cool, what with working late spring ren faires, 4th of July events, and summer seasons at theme parks built around gigantic hunks of granite carved with the likenesses of traitors. Occasionally there will be cold days (one time it snowed!), but for the most part frostbite has not been a concern. It’s still not, but it sure feels like it some mornings. Being cold is my kryptonite.
The other day my talented and well-dressed harpist friend Sarah turned me on to her newest purchase: a pair of fleece-lined leggings from Anthropologie. They’re kind of amazing: soft inside, matte and opaque outside, comfortable, warm, and not the least bit bulky. High-waisted me could wish they had a slightly longer crotch seam, but if we got everything we wanted we would have nothing to bitch about. I think I’m going to need to add one more layer of tights or leggings when it gets super cold towards Thanksgiving, but for now they’re the best.
That got me thinking about other ways I’m keeping warm. I’m a little out of my depth here, but fortunately I have friends wit experience who can offer suggestions. And really, it should not be that complicated to adjust a Renaissance Europe-era costume to cold weather. Europe in the 15somethings, as it turns out, was smack in the middle of the Little Ice Age, and they all managed without central heating and insulation and fuzzy socks. This should not be hard.
So far, here in mid-to-late October, I’m getting along with the bare minimum of warm shit. I’ve got the basic costume (I adjusted a few things, more on that later), I just added some things: narrow sleeves (made of an 80/20 silk poly blend that’s heaven under 75 degrees and hell over), fingerless gloves (which also keep my shirt sleeves from riding up when I put on my sleeves), a black velvet scarf I keep forgetting to remove the tag from, and a black, rose-patterned shawl I found under the receptionist desk at my last full-time job. And then, of course, warm socks.
Next week I’m going to put together a new cloak. I have a full-length cloak in dark green wool and black fleece that’s gorgeous and comfy, but a) it’s not terribly character specific, and b) I’m using it as an extra blanket, because we’re camping without power hookups. The pattern is obviously seriously not period, but frankly it’s already 32 degrees outside when I leave the RV and it’s only October don’t judge me. With fewer (which is to say, no) ruffles I think option C will be just fine. Fleece Fest was happening at Hancock, so I got a pretty pale yellow for the lining, and I thought I was going to use my 50% off coupon on a black wool blend that was marked at $14.99/yd, until the lady who was about to cut it told me it was already on sale, it normally retailed for $27something, and so I couldn’t use my coupon. I was like “wtf, that’s the opposite of what it says on the bolt right there,” but it was almost closing and I was desperate for dinner so I let it go. To hell with Hancock Fabrics. I have got to stop going there. I’ve got some velveteen left, so I’ll use that, and the cloak will look like an extension of the costume. Which is what I want anyway. I just hope the velveteen and fleece is warm enough. Maybe I’ll interline it with something?
Anyway, that’s what I’m doing to keep warm so far. I’m going to need a pair of actual gloves at some point, with a water-proof outside and a soft lining and, ya know, fingers and whatnot. I’m also going to make a new pair of sleeves in a black velvety fabric of undetermined content, because options!
Tell me how you keep warm, persons who do historical outdoor events in the cold. This is for science.
You guys. I just. Can we talk about corsets? Specifically, can we talk about the difference in corset styles? “Well wait a minute, biscuit,” you may be saying, “a corset is just a corset, right?” Frankly I don’t know why you’re reading this post if that’s what you think, unless you’re my mom*, because how much interest would you have in browsing the “corsetry” tag? But I’ll answer anyway: NO, a corset is not “just a corset.”
I used to think the opposite. Many many years ago I had a conversation, which I shudder to recall, with a friend of mine who was saving to have a new bodice commissioned for the ren fest where we both performed. We were having this conversation while she was wearing a perfectly lovely bodice, and I was so confused. “Girl, why do you need a new bodice?” I asked. “This one is super pretty and looks really nice on you.” “Thank you,” she said, “but it’s a Victorian silhouette, and not period at all.” “Who cares?” I replied with a wave of my childish, ignorant hand. “It’s all the same.”
Since I’m an actor as well as a maker-of-costumes, I constantly troll the interwebs looking for pictures of myself in action (ideally in which I look both hilarious and blindingly sexy, or at least not completely dreadful). What follows are some of my favorites from the 2012 season, mostly at Scarborough. Enjoy!
PS I saved most of these without bothering to note to whom they belong, so if you notice your picture here, feel free to let me know and I’ll fix it up with a link.