Live Entertainment: Renaissance Faires

Official image off of the ‘Renaissance Pleasure Faire’ website. Copyright goes to the ‘Renaissance Pleasure Faire’ in LA and the many talented performances.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Lately, I’ve been missing some of the things I wanted to do before Covid hit pretty badly again and put a lot back up in the air. One of the things that I’m hoping this current spike doesn’t effect, is the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Los Angeles in the coming Spring. Because, if you haven’t been able to tell from many of my other posts, I am a giant geek. I’ve even talked about playing Dungeons and Dragons on this blog before. Which I’m so glad is being more normalized by shows like ‘Critical Role’! But, if you’ve never been to a Renaissance Faire and you’re at all interested in medieval style entertainment and have an interest in immersive entertainment, I would highly recommend going to one at least once. Renaissance Faires are magical in the way that they seem to transport yourself to another place entirely, and the people who work there are even better at adding to the immersion than anything around you. I’m going to talk about my personal experiences with Renaissance Faires, specifically the one in Los Angeles, and what they usually entail.

The Joust/ Sword Fighting:

In the US, we generally have the same Renaissance Faire group that goes to most Faires. One of my favorite things about this group is that they generally travel with female knights and the master of ceremonies is also a woman. This is amazing considering establishments like ‘Medieval Times’ still don’t allow women as knights in their venues. So if you want to see a woman fight professionally as a knight, Renaissance Faires are some of the only places you can see that at. The show usually has several times, usually around three or four per day, and the last one is always different compared to the other three. While the first three might just be the joust and competition, the last one is usually that along with a giant fight between several of the knights. You never know, the knight you were cheering for in the first show could reveal himself to be a villain you didn’t expect. And the knights are always very in character, it’s so fun to hype them up from the crowd. I have never been a sports fan, but apparently jousting is my form of sports. You can’t expect how into it you’ll get and how into it everyone else is too.

Ambiance and Performances:

Renaissance Faires are usually very big and full of tents of shops, food, and games (such as axe throwing and archery). Also, in some more scenic Faires, there’s plenty of greenery and sometimes they even take place by rivers. There’s a lot to walk through, so there’s always some sort of entertainment around every corner as well. A newer addition to most Renaissance Faires is the presence of elven or otherwise fantastical characters. They often don’t speak and are in full body paint to represent a specific element. They mostly interact with kids and are overall really good photo ops. There’s also expected things like acrobatic shows, sword juggling, and groups playing Medieval type music throughout the Faire. The music especially really sets the mood for everything else. My favorite thing that I saw other than the joust was actually a one man Shakespeare puppet show of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that was more of a comedy. It sounded odd to me going in, but it turned out to be hilarious. Never underestimate any of the acts at a Renaissance Faire. Most of the performers have been practicing all year for this event, and they’re all very good!

Tents and Shops:

Be prepared to spend a lot of money if you decide to go, because there’s way too much to spend all of your money on. If you’re looking for costume pieces such as corsets, dresses, or even armor, all of those things are available. I got lost in a headpiece tent that had amazing pieces such as tiaras or other more elven like pieces with gorgeously colored jewels. If you are interested in buying an actual sword, there are those too. I know that some Faires even have a tent for buying “pet dragons”, which are of course really expensive. They are smaller shoulder sized dragons that are also intricate puppets and very realistic looking. Much like going to Ollivander’s in the ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter’, they match you to a dragon and make the experience as realistic as possible by treating them like actual pets. There was also a tarot tent that was mostly outside and covered with plants of every kind. It looked like you were entering a mini-garden. Also, expect the food to be theme park fare and expensive. It isn’t great, but it’ll get you through the day unless you decide to bring your own. Some Renaissance Faires, like the giant one in New York, have actual cottage-looking building fixtures as shops instead. While most Faires don’t have this added detail, I hope to eventually go to one that does!

Costuming:

There’s a common misconception that everyone who goes to a Renaissance Faire has to dress up. That’s very not true. I saw almost just as many people dressed up as not. You’ll feel like you fit in no matter what you wear. I am personally the type of person who likes to go all out with my costume. I bought a dress specifically for this event and I’m really into flower crowns so I went searching for the exact color flower crown that would match it beforehand. Just as a note, if you want a flower crown I would recommend buying one online or making your own because the ones I’ve often found at Renaissance Faires can have quite small flowers. That aside, I would definitely try and look into what you want to wear to the Faire at least a month in advance. Most places that make costumes specifically for events like this can take four to eight weeks to get your costume to you. I bought my dress off of Holy Clothing, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for something to wear to any event from a Ren Faire to a LARP. Their time frame is often pretty long. The dresses are more sturdy than regular costume pieces. But if you want to buy pieces at the Faire, I recommend doing that somewhat. Just don’t count on buying an entire costume, maybe just some pieces, because it can be really pricey.

Interactions:

I would highly recommend going to the Faire with a group if you can! Bring your D&D group! That’s essentially what I did. But if you just go by yourself, you won’t feel alone. So many people walk up to you and really make you feel at home. I haven’t been called “princess” that many times since I was a child at Disneyland. And this time people somehow treat the perceived nobility of your costume with seriousness. It’s kind of world bending in a way. You can also interact with the Queen; I know that certain Faires even allow you to pay extra to have tea with the Queen. I’m personally ok with just walking around the Faire and seeing where it takes me, so I’m not personally going to try that but it seems to be a popular event. Expect people to talk to you, but they aren’t persistent so if that’s not your thing they’ll back off. But sometimes interactions are some of the best parts of the Faire!

If you are a giant geek like me, I would highly recommend going to your most local Faire. They are also full of small businesses that need your patronage, so it’s a great way to support those businesses as well in a fun and immersive way! Just don’t expect to leave with that much money left. I really hope I’m able to attend this year!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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