Follow the adventures of a sociologist as she travels to renaissance faires to conduct field research for her master's thesis. Meet interesting characters, sing along with pirates, and perhaps learn a little something about social interaction along the way. The working title of the thesis is "Shared Fantasy and Identity Performance in the Renaissance Festival Subculture." But you're probably here for the pirates...
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Clockwork Faeries, Tudor Roses, and Science
I must find a way to sleep...sometime between all of the driving, and interviewing, and note taking...and teaching when I'm back in the real world. But so far (possibly because I have managed to keep the Barge, meaning my car, on the road despite sleep deprivation) it has been worth it. I had an excellent time this weekend and got some really great interviews with some renfaire pros whom I feel privileged to have gotten to talk with so candidly.
Nyxie Tryx the Thistle Faerie
had fun with the theme of
To start at the beginning, this was Steampunk Weekend at the faire. What is steampunk and what on Earth does it have to do with the renaissance, much less 14th century Scotland, you may ask. Steampunk is a geek fantasy version of Victorian science fiction. Think H.G. Wells and The Time Machine and you'll be on
the right track. Or, as I've heard it said, steampunk is what happens when
goths discover the color brown. In any case, there isn't really much that it
has to do with 14th century Scotland, but both renfaires and scteampunk tend to appeal to the same subculture audience of consumers and event attendees. And that more than anything is what they have in common--geeks who like to dress up and spend money. I mean, let's be honest, as fun and affirming as it is, these festivals are still a business. And this past Saturday there was a record number of people through the gate, certainly the most so far this season. Steampunk is popular. Perhaps one in
five people in attendance was in some kind of clockwork, Victorian, or fanciful
high-low-tech costume or accessory. And it seems to be that almost anything
looks steampunk if you add goggles. Even the Faewood Faeries.
The Tudor Rose Players
The Tudor Rose Players, an independent historical acting troupe who started in renaissance faires, were guest cast this weekend. We took some time early in the day Sunday for a panel interview of sorts in which I got to talk with five of them at once about what they do and how they help to create the unique fantasy and authenticity of experience that is the renaissance festival. Their reputation for striving for historical accuracy preceded them, and I was not disappointed. These people are scholars as well as performers. And, as a textile geek (and kilt-o-phile), I especially loved the aside lesson on the history of the kilt with their artistic director. Also, I got some good insider information on the more intense experience of working some of the larger faires. Oh the plans I have for when I get to do more extensive research than this thesis! (PhD dissertation, anyone?)
And, saving the best for last, I had a "lunch meeting" with Doktor Kaboom on Sunday. He is becoming a bit of a celebrity in certain circles, not just renaissance faires, and so it was a privilege to be able to monopolize a little of his time. This man has been performing at renaissance festivals (although not as the Herr Doktor) for many, many years. He had some wonderful insights to share about the subculture behind the scenes, not just while the faires are open. He is smart, funny, and he knows renfaires. Certainly one of my best interviews so far. Plus, this man is promoting science, and there's just something enjoyable about listening to a grown man speak intelligently about how he gets to play like a little kid. "The best part is--I'm at work right now!" Me too, sir. Still the best thesis topic ever.