The first year I worked RenFair, I got bit by it. I just thought this is great entertainment; it's improvisational and it's one-on-one with the audience. In my former role as an out-of-work director, Isabella Tearsheet, I would walk around the fair asking people to act a scene with me and then petition the king to give me a theater based on my acting prowess. I'd teach people how to swoon, die and belch like the rich and famous.
Isabella was a very physical character, and that's why I liked her. I once had to crawl on the ground and toss dirt on myself in the throws of a death scene because I won't ask any audience member at the festival to do anything I won't do myself. Because the character I created was out of work, nothing I wore could match, so I looked kind of like a walking Renaissance flea market. My costume consisted of completely mismatched pantaloons, skirts, a chemise blouse and a bodice. You can't eat a lot in the corset; I'd have to get the purveyors of food to wrap my medieval turkey leg up in some modern-day tin foil so I could munch on it throughout the day.
Hot Georgia summers can be the most challenging aspect of RenFair, but playing a peasant allowed me to hike up my skirt and wipe my face with it and still stay in character. On those particularly hot days when everyone got a little more lethargic, I directed people to shady spots and sat and relaxed with them. Ultimately it's all about giving the people what they need, whether it is entertainment, shopping suggestions or directions.
What people seem to need most is to just be able to leave their troubles behind when we take them back in time.