In the summer of 2013, our fight group, The Royal Dragoons, was invited to travel in the fall to the Spokane Renaissance Faire to assist with stage management. Our Fight Master Adam Edminston and other members of the Royal Dragoons have travelled to the great and mighty Greenwood Faire several years running to assist with stage management and have earned a reputation as a capable team. Many of those among us who had never had the chance to go to the Greenwood event volunteered eagerly for the Spokane experience!
Fast forward a couple of months, and events were conspiring against us. Adam wasn’t going to be able to take the time off work to go to Spokane, nor were the other ‘veterans’, for similar reasons. The six of us still signed on for the trip had to make a decision: were we willing to go and try to handle the stage management for the Faire despite our utter lack of experience?
Why yes, we were.
And the Spokane folks were willing to give us a trial run. Bless their trusting/desperate? hearts.
Accordingly, on Friday October 4th, 2013, six untried members of the Royal Dragoons loaded into one tan minivan. Being that this vehicle carrying six adult passengers, we took with us only the bare bones of Renaissance Faire survival—the clothes on our backs, snacks for the road, and you know, swords. And boots. And corsets, doublets, capes, daggers, and breeches. A 7 foot quarterstaff. And a parasol, a couple of fox tails, half a dozen swords, and one dainty sixteenth century straw hat in a box.
The raw basics.
Morale in the van was running high for the trip up to northeastern Washington. We drove through gorgeous autumnal mountain landscapes and listened to the entire soundtrack of The Phantom of the Opera (most of us willingly). We discovered that Brad has a fine baritenor singing voice, that Jeremy was very close to his grandparents growing up, and that Tiffany does not approve of cliff edges, among other things.
Somewhere after the Washington state line we began pre-arrival celebrations by car-dancing to the throbbing vibes of “We are Young”. Apparently unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, we all like the band Fun– at least at midnight while heavily caffeinated after eight hours in a vehicle.
Well after midnight we rolled into Spokane and parked on Lena Cooley’s curb. We had our first glimpse of our hostess, the Spokane Renn Faire’s official ‘Faithful Squire’, for the first time when she crept out to greet us in her jammies with sleepy eyes after being rudely awakened by our tromping about.
Nights are short for Renaissance Stage Managers, alas. But we eagerly scampered from our comfy beds and donned our period attire, dancing around each other in the two bathrooms and helping each other lace up corsets. The brilliant sunny day was before us, and with a high degree of trepidation/excitement we set out in our faithful tan minivan for the Faire Grounds.
My personal experience with Renaissance Faires is limited. As in, Spokane made three total. However I feel completely qualified to assert that a more picturesque location than that of the Spokane Faire could scarce be found. Steep rolling mountainsides clad in dark green firs and brilliant gold and red autumn foliage surround an idyllic little valley, where the Faire sets up camp in a wide meadow. There is no running water, no electricity. Just birds singing and people laughing (in English accents, of course) and the scent of horses and pine trees. It’s pretty perfect, yeah.
We were quickly given our assignment for the day: manage all four of their stages for the duration of the day. That meant making sure that none of the performers were double-booked, that they all were present and prepared ten minutes before they went on, and that they were all kept in high medieval spirits.
That was before all the inevitable plot twists occurred, however. We soon found ourselves faced with underage performers who weren’t sure they could/should perform in the tavern, Magicians who… didn’t appear… belly dancers in need of electricity, and disgruntled gypsies in need of pacification (and may I just say, you have not properly understood the word disgruntled until you are face to face with it in all of it’s dramatic, jingling, flashing, colorful gypsy brilliance.)
And that was all before noon, the first day.
We spent the two days of the Faire learning alongside our performers about stage management. We ran up the steep hill to the tavern and back down countless times (and not for the ale), swapped performers and adjusted schedules and held a hundred hasty conferences. We grew sun burnt and footsore, gobbled delicious scones and assisted bee-stung children, and spent hours laughing at the marvelous wit of comedy troupes, being astounded by fire-dancers, and relaxing to the beauty of medieval choral singing. We saw live mounted knights joust in full armor unhorse one another, were treated to marvelous Celtic music, and enjoyed truly excellent ad-lib acting all throughout the Faire.
All this, while making new friends, exploring the Faire during our breaks, reveling in the lively atmosphere, and being treated with appreciation and respect by the people we’d come to work with.
The feeling of enjoyment and camaraderie which we experienced throughout the weekend among the cast and crew culminated with an end of Faire gathering up in the Tavern on the hill, with wild Celtic music, dancing, drinking, and laughter! The Directors thanked their cast and crew and entertainers profusely, and there was time for anyone who wished to share their best memories of the weekend—which finally had to be cut off after a half hour because, well, we just all had SO MANY good memories!
For myself, it was the most positive, truly inspiring Faire experience I’ve yet had. Our group was treated with such hospitality and generosity that it’s hard to overstate it. The Faire is relatively small and new, but it has wonderful atmosphere, excellent variety of entertainment and merchants/vendors, and the crew really seemed to pull together and have fun, and that is what makes a Renn Faire wonderful for the patrons!
Most of all, our little group of six had an opportunity to work together, and to walk away from it feeling we had learned, we’d grown, we’d done our job well, and we knew each other and liked each other even more!
We were invited to come back and do it again this coming Fall, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
-by Tiffany Erickson