Renaissance Faires - The Ins and Outs of Immersive Entertainment
"It's Immersive Entertainment...
That means you wave back...."
heard at midday parade,
from smiling and waving peasant
to visitors to the faire.
This is a day and age of passive entertainment, where we sit around and wait to be amused, and where sociologists shake their heads and talk anxiously about children growing up who no longer know how to entertain themselves.
We're told what to do, what to watch, what to read, what to play, and what to feel about it all. Our entertainment comes prepackaged and predigested....
...Except, of course, for at the renaissance faire.
At the faire, we experience something different - something called immersive entertainment.
So what is immersive entertainment anyway?
What is Immersive Entertainment?
Immersive entertainment is a kind of fun where you do not sit back and be passively entertained.
Instead of being spoon fed your fun, you have an environment or a situation that you can actively experience, explore and become a part of. In an immersive entertainment situation, cast members or the physical set up itself will encourage you to solve mysteries, interact with characters, be yourself (or someone else), and in general become an active part of the story to whatever degree you are comfortable with.
It's a different way of enjoying yourself.
What Does Immersive Entertainment Offer That I Can't Get From My T.V.?
Why would you want to dive in and become part of the show?
Why immersive entertainment? Because immersive entertainment offers a deep and rich experience- one fuller and more real than you can ever get in a passive entertainment. It lets you reach out and touch the wonder. It lets you live the adventure for a little while. It lets you be part of the story.
Immersive entertainment is a more exciting experience than passive entertainment. It encourages you to think, dream, expound, pretend, sing, dance and laugh out loud. Immersive entertainment gives you a chance to be bigger than life. It lets you try on a new you or pretend to be someone else for the day.
Immersive entertainment can be good for you too. It works your mind. It relieves stress. It helps you find your joy, and awe, and childlike sense of fun, all characteristics that contribute to a healthy mind in a healthy body. (Studies find that happiness relieves stress and supports a healthy immune system.)
Finally, immersive entertainment is fun; and fun should never be underrated....
How Involved Do You Like To Get In Immersive Entertainment?
It Takes All Types
Now, some of you are going to take to this kind of experience like ducks do to water. We'll see you dressing like a pirate, swinging a cutlass and shouting "Arrrrrr !" within the first half hour of opening.
Others of you will be vaguely intimidated by the whole concept. Will jesters come leaping out at you, shouting obscure medieval jests? Will you be kidnapped by militant wenches? Will it be embarrassing ?
Bunches more of you will fall somewhere in between these two polar opposites.
The good part about this is that a good immersive entertainment is ready for all of you.
The cast at a good faire are professionals, and have a good eye for the difference between someone enjoying herself and someone who'd really rather not be quite so up close and personal. As a rule, they'll adjust their approach to how you're reacting. Those who are eating it up usually get more attention, and those who are more cautious are approached more slowly.
The things you do will help to set the level to which you become immersed, and you're always welcome to slow up or dive in deeper as you chose.
Ways to Get More Involved
Have you ever hungered to be part of an epic story? Is your inner adventurer just waiting to come out? Do you want all of the gusto that you can get out of a faire?
Well, there are things you can do to increase the chances that you will become involved in the story, and increase your immersion experience.
- Make eye contact with cast members and performers. This identifies you as someone friendly who wants to interact.
- Learn a few basic medieval terms, such as "My Lord" or "My Lady" and use them in conversation. (If you need a reference, I have another Hub I've written on simple terms to use as you're starting out.)
- Talk to characters and other citizens of the faire. Ask directions, their opinions on food or shows, what they think about what Robin Hood has been doing lately. When you start the interaction, you show that you're willing to be a part of things.
- Sit or stand up front at shows, parades and experiences. If visitors will be picked as volunteers, the ones who can be seen are more frequently chosen.
- Raise your hand and volunteer, when volunteers are asked for. This can get you into some interesting and fun experiences.
- Look interested. People who are already interested are fun to interact with
- Look interesting. Many times, characters will single you out for your costume, your actions or your attitude.
- Participate in what's going on around you. Cheer the hero. Boo the villain.Have a good time with it.
None of these things are guaranteed to make you the center of the story, but doing one or more of them increases your odds of becoming drawn in to a greater extent.
Ways to Stay Less Involved
What if you don't want to plunge right into the adventure of the Renaissance? What if you're kind of shy, or the idea of being plunged into the middle of unpredictable theatrical performances embarrasses you or even scares you?
Have no fear, my friend. As previously noted, the immersive entertainment experience is for all different types of people, from brash to reserved, and there are ways for you to enjoy yourself as well.
Want some ideas for ways to immerse at the shallower end of things? Try these.
- Avoid eye contact. Eye contact is an invitation to engage.
- At shows, activities and parades, sit or stand in the back or in the midst of a group. The more accessible you are to the cast, the more likely you are to be singled out.
- Limit your interaction with characters, especially major characters.
- Don't volunteer for things.
- Give more of your time to quieter activities, like shopping, listening to a harper, or admiring the appearance of the faire. Some activities (ex: Join Robin's Men) are more likely to involve you immersively than others (ex:the madrigal singers' show)
None of these ideas guarantees that you won't be swept off your feet by the Black Knight, or find yourself dancing the May Pole with Little John, but you're less likely to be swept away if you make these ideas part of your day at the faire.
One thought though. Even if you think that immersive entertainment is too much for you, I'd advise you to try a bit of it. You just might find that you like it and that it opens up some new ideas for you....
An Important Note- Please Read
Immersive entertainment is great fun, but even it has its boundaries and limitations
Remember that inappropriate touching, physical contact or outright assaults are not acceptable at the renaissance faire, even if the wench is friendly or the villain villainous. A general rule of thumb is that, if it would be considered a criminal offense that you might be sued or jailed for in the outside world, it's not ok at the faire either.
(And, yes, I have seen people get carried away...)
Have fun but play nice, and everyone has a great day at the faire.
Easing Into It...
Part of the fun of immersive entertainment is that it comes in all sizes and degrees of immersion. No "off-the-rack" or "one-size-fits-all" approach with this type of fun. You're free to keep your entertainment mostly passive, ease into an immersive event, or dive into it head first, whichever approach best suits your personality or mood of the day.
Whatever your rate of immersion, a good faire will work with it; but there are some basic tips of those of us who wish to ease into it, as opposed to jump in over their heads.
- Start by looking over the website and program, to get a feel for the personality of the faire. Faires are like people, and each one has its own flavor.
- Tour the grounds, seeing how things are laid out, and watching for special little things that add to the faire.
- Take in a show or two. Participate to the level you feel comfortable with (cheer, clap, do jazz hands) then increase your participation to slightly more than you're used to.
- Talk to a vendor or minor character in the role of a guest of the faire. Ask where the bathrooms are, or what shows do they like best, or is there any "do-not-miss" food. Gentle one-to-one conversation is a good way to start participating.
- Take one tip from the lists above and make that part of your faire day. When you're comfortable with that, add another.
If you're "total immersion" woman, and have a Tudor hood and a farthingale that have been hiding in the back of your closet for forever, feel free to jump in and seize all of the gusto you can with both hands. For the rest of us, it's as well to dip one toe into the renaissance waters and let our immersion be gradual.
So, jump in or ease yourself into it. Either way, you'll have a great time amusing yourself at the faire.