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9 Terms Rennies Use That You Should Know

August 29, 2012

Given the success of my convention posts, I decided to write a couple of similar posts for experiences that are unique to Renaissance festivals.  In writing them, I realized that I spent a lot of time explaining what various words meant, as it sometimes seems like Rennies have their own special language.  And I don’t just mean the Ren Speak.  Since Ren Faire season is starting up again around these parts and I mentioned a few while on Dr. Nerdlove’s podcast this week, I figure it’s time to give these posts a kick in the pants and actually finish them.  I should note that while many of these terms are fairly universal, there are regional variations.  Which I’m sure my regular readers will cheerfully educate me on.

Faire (Fest, Festival)

A Renaissance festival is generally an outdoor event with shops, shows, and a large group of people wearing clothing that ranges from mostly historical to complete fantasy and talking in accents which may or may not resemble that of the region the character is supposed to be from.  Most faires in America are set in England, though most do not actually take place during the English Renaissance (generally considered to have occurred during the reign of Elizabeth I).  Some don’t even take place during the Italian Renaissance, preferring instead to be set during The Crusades, probably because the kings had cooler nicknames.  Unlike reenactment events, most Renaissance festivals are not intended to be historical in nature.  Which explains the fairies.

Rennie (Renny)

A Rennie is someone who either works at or regularly attends faires.  Typically, someone is not considered a “true” Rennie until they’ve accomplished some outstanding feat of devotion to the lifestyle, like attending every year for more than 10 years, attending every weekend of a festival for more than two years running, or getting a job at a faire.  Typical Rennie behavior includes roaming second hand stores for good wooden bowls, evaluating shoes at Wal-mart for their ability to pass as generally historical, and taking up hobbies like leather working and corset making.  Rennies may be members of groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism, Amtgard, or NERO, but not always.  Rennies as a group have varied backgrounds, but generally share one thing in common with other Rennies: The desire to dress up in vaguely medieval clothing and talk funny.

The Circuit

A Rennie who is “working the circuit” is someone who traveling from faire to faire, usually as a Boothie or Performer.  When one faire ends, they will pack up their gear and move on to another faire.  And there is always another faire.  On any given weekend (and sometimes during the week), there is a faire going on somewhere in the country.  There is no one true Circuit, but most people on a circuit stick to faires within a particular geographical range and only go beyond that range for a large or particularly noteworthy faire.  Some people on the circuit will have RVs which they haul everywhere they go, or homes of friends that they stay in.  A really successful member of the circuit may even own a small piece of property close to two or more faires, using each as the geographical center of part of their circuit.  Some members of the circuit live out of their cars, and whether or not this makes them unsuccessful or successful really depends on whether or not they view living out of their car as a bad thing.

Ren Speak

Ren Speak is the terms and style of talking that most Rennies use to interact with Patrons.  Calling dollars “pounds,” bathrooms “the privies,” referring to customers as “my lord” or “my lady,” and tacking “ye olde” onto common nouns are all examples of Ren Speak.  Some Rennies can do accents quite well and truly dedicated Rennies will even learn to speak the language of the character they are playing so that they can more convincingly interact with Patrons.  Patrons who insist that workers stop using Ren Speak and “talk normal” may find themselves the subject of an impromptu skit making fun of the way the Patron dresses and talks, as clearly they have completely misunderstood the concept of a Renaissance Festival and need to learn fast.

Patron (Front Gater, Ticket Holder)

A Patron is someone who attends faire via the front gate. Patrons are generally considered to be the customer of the faire.  Whether or not they are considered a customer of the particular booth they are standing in depends on how nice they are being at the time.  Patrons don’t always show up in costumes, though each and every clothing booth hopes that they can convince them to leave in one.  Not all Patrons are Rennies, but most Rennies have been the patron of at least one faire in their life and will often attend several different faires over the course of the year.

Participant (Back Gater)

Any person who works for the faire in some capacity.  This includes everyone working in the funny costumes as well as the nice people in uniform who wander around to pick up the trash and the nice people in uniform who wander around and kick the trash out when they do something stupid.  Patrons sometimes decide that all the rules of police society ended at the front gate, and the second category of nice people in uniform have an act of their own they like to perform for them.  This act is usually not terribly amusing to the Patron in question, but is terribly amusing to whatever Participant had to call for them.

Boothie (Vendor, Dealer)

A Boothie either owns or works for a particular booth or shop.  Depending on the policies of the faire in question, the booth may be owned entirely by the person who runs it, rented straight from the faire, or be part of a group of booths owned by a single person or company.  The products being sold in the booth may be hand crafted by the people who work there, by a group of people being represented by the booth workers, or the products may be items purchased from a large manufacturer or importer.  The last category aren’t generally all that bad, unless they’re the sort of shady vendor who likes to pass off mass produced crap as hand crafted.  That particular brand of asshole isn’t unique to the faire circuit and generally can get stuffed wherever they might be peddling their wares.  Boothies may work separate jobs outside of the faire or work during the week to restock their booth and do the endless paperwork that comes with running any small business.

Performer (Company Man/Woman, PC, Cast)

A Performer is someone who is paid by the festival and plays a specific character.  Depending on the setting of the festival, this character might be a historical figure, a character from popular myth, or just a sly pun on popular culture.  One of the local faires has a whole court whose characters are (occasionally not so) subtle parodies of a well known television show.  Performers typically start as a bit player in someone else’s group before working their way up the ranks to the fancy garb.  Performers may work at a single faire, work the circuit as a single iconic character, or play different characters at different faires.  Performers are also generally under contract and get paid by the faire, though usually not enough for all of the work that goes into rehearsals, workshops, making costumes, and actual performances.  There are very few truly easy jobs out at faire, but Performers have one of the harder ones.  A really strict faire may require that performers stay in character every moment that they are in the public eye, right down to while doing their own personal shopping, eating lunch, and even going to the bathroom.

Act (Busker, Troupe, Hat Passer)

A person who has a contract with the faire to put on a show of some type. Some faires have theirs acts be performers, or their performers have acts. Acts are not necessarily paid by the faire and often depend on tips for their wage.  Patrons sometimes mistakenly believe that the various acts are being paid pretty big bucks to stand around playing music or cracking jokes.  Thus, they get a little cranky when asked to pay additional money on top of their very expensive ticket just to tip the people who are putting on the show.  The truth is that while some acts do get paid to be at the faire, the bulk of their earnings come from tips.  And some of these acts are only working for the pass that gets them in the back gate and whatever tips wind up in the hat.  A good day can be a really, really good day and a bad day can be dishearteningly crappy.  Rainy days can truly suck, but the worst days are the ones where it is raining just beyond the faire.  At least if the faire floods, there is the faint hope that it might close for the day.

Next time: 9 Terms Rennies Use With Other Rennies


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