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An Ethnography of th e Bay Area Renaissance Festival Performing Community and Reconfiguring Gender by Matthew W. Johnson A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Communication College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D Kenneth Cissna, Ph.D. Stacy Holman Jones, Ph.D Giovanna Benadusi, Ph.D Date of Approval: May 7, 2010 Keywords: performance, performa tivity communitas festivalism mythopoeia Copyright 2010 Matthew W. Johnson
DEDICATION This completion of this project has been long in coming. It could not have been possible without the constant support and devotion of my loving wife, Jessica, along with the cheerful encouragement of my beautiful children, Titus and Lily.
A CKNOWLEDG MENTS I wish to thank m y advisor Elizabeth Bell, who has patiently and insightfully coached me through my cou rsework and the writing process, ha s become an invaluable teacher, mentor, and friend. The members of my committee are all professors at the top of their game. My graduate school experience has been enriched because of their classes and counsel. Finally, I owe a great deal to Keysha William s who has tirelessly aided me in navigating the technical aspects of the graduate school world. Thank you all for your help and support.
i T ABLE OF CONTENTS L IST OF FI GURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... iv ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ v C HAPTER ONE TILTING THE WINDMILL: ON NARRATING FES TIVAL ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 2 Statement of Purpose ................................ ................................ ............................. 8 Contextualizing Festival : Background and Relevant Literature .................... 10 Defining Ren Fest: Carnival esque Subversion or Festivalism? ........... 13 Carnival and C arnivalesque ................................ ....................... 13 Festival : Between Carnival and S pectacle ................................ 17 Re levant Res earch on Living History and Renaissance Festivals ................................ ................................ ............................... 19 Methodolog y: Reflexive Ethnography and Narrative as Inquiry .................... 25 Reflexive Ethnography ................................ ................................ ............ 26 Narrative as Inquiry ................................ ................................ ................ 30 Outline of Chapters ................................ ................................ .............................. 32 C HAPTER TWO A DAY AT THE FAIRE : COMMUNITY AND IDENTITY CON STITUTED IN PERFORMANCE ................................ .............. 34 The Constitutive Nature of Performance ................................ .......................... 37 Reflection and Reflexivity ................................ ................................ ....... 37 Work and Play ................................ ................................ .......................... 39 A Community of Performers ................................ ................................ .............. 40 Welcome to My Ground of Play ................................ ............................. 41 Liminal and Liminoid Moments ................................ ............................. 45 The Parting Glass : Performance Aims of Festival ................................ ............ 48 Come Play with Me : Invitations to Participate ................................ ..... 52 Performers, Patrons, and Pla y trons : Performance Commitments ................................ ................................ ......... 53 Physical Commitments: To Garb, o r Not to Garb? .................. 58 Committing to Touch: Am I in Your Space? ............................ 61 By Means of Production : Performing Material Culture ...................... 62 I Need a Renaissance : A Mythological Community of Difference ................................ ................................ ............................ 66 Community: The Serious Work of Play at a Day at the Faire ......................... 72
ii C HAPTER THREE O F K NIGHTS R OGUES P OETS AND KINGS : E MBODIMENT AND MYTH IN MASCULINE PLAY ................................ ....... 7 4 Festival and t he Reconstitution(s) of Gender ................................ .................... 76 Hegemonic Masculinity ................................ ................................ ....................... 77 The Moment of Engagement: H egemonic Masculinities and Embodiment ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 80 Bodies as Objects and Agents ................................ ................................ 84 ................................ ................................ ..................... 8 6 The Moment of Engagement: Hegemonic Masculinit ies an d the Myth ic Hero ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 90 The Fool and the Fop ................................ ................................ ............... 92 Performance and Orientation: Opening the Field ................................ ............ 95 Mythopoeia and the Making of Men ................................ ................................ .. 99 Ren Men and Man Therapy ................................ ................................ 100 ................................ ................................ ........................ 104 Something Rich and Strange ................................ ................................ ............. 109 C HAPTER FOUR W ENCHES AND QUEENS: M YTH AND THE POWER OF FEMININE FANTASY ................................ ................................ ..... 111 Festival and Gender Performativity ................................ ................................ 114 ................................ ................................ ........................... 118 Celebrating Difference ................................ ................................ ........... 118 Working Wenches ................................ ................................ .................. 122 Upsetting the Male Gaze ................................ ................................ ....... 124 Men as Objects of Desire ................................ ................................ ....... 128 ................................ ................................ .......... 132 The Matria rchal Kingdom ................................ ................................ ................ 133 The Wench Queen ................................ ................................ .................. 135 : A Literary Model for Gendered Communities ................................ ................................ ..................... 137 Sensual Play/Sexual Prowess ................................ ................................ 139 A Community of Wenches ................................ ................................ ..... 143 ................................ ................................ ...... 145 Female Masculinity ................................ ................................ ............................ 146 Grania and Masculine Power ................................ ............................... 150 ................................ ................................ .......... 151 Making Herstory ................................ ................................ ................................ 152
iii CHAPTER FIVE A COMMUNITY OF DIFFERENCE: REFIGURING ................................ ........................ 155 Purpose of this Study ................................ ................................ ......................... 157 Significant Contributions ................................ ................................ .................. 158 Implications for Future Research ................................ ................................ ..... 161 Puddleton and the Forest of Symbols ................................ ............................... 163 R EFERENCES CITED ................................ ................................ ................................ 167 A BOUT THE AUTHOR ................................ ................................ ..................... End Page
iv LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1 : Map of Puddleton ................................ ................................ .............................. 1 Figure 2: ................................ ................................ ...... 35 Figure 3 : The Queen and King Arrive to Enter Puddleton w ith Us ........................... 42 Figure 4 : Just In side the Gate: The Maypole and a Typical La n e .............................. 47 Figure 5 : King and Queen a ................................ ...................... 51 Figure 6 : Playtrons in Fantasy Garb ................................ ................................ ............. 68 Figure 7 : Two Jousters Tilting ................................ ................................ ........................ 75 Figure 8 : Human Combat Chess ................................ ................................ .................... 78 Figure 9 : Festival Fops ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 89 Fig ure 10 : The Tor tuga Twins ................................ ................................ ........................ 9 4 Figure 11 : Two Kilted P latrons and a Kilted Performer ................................ ........... 106 Figure 12 : Daphne and Lucy ................................ ................................ ........................ 120 Figure 13 : Daphne Wooing a Male Audience Member ................................ .............. 125 Figure 14 : The Washing Well Wenches Touching Thigh and Breach ...................... 130 Figure 15 : The Author, In Cost ume ................................ ................................ ............. 14 2
v An Ethnography of the Bay Area Renaissance Festival : Performing Community and Reconfiguring Gender Matthew W. Johnson ABSTRACT This performance ethnography analyzes the means by which performers at Area Renaissance Fes tival constitute community and gender through performance. Renaissance Festivals are themed weekend events that ostensibly seek to allow visitors to experience life in a n English Renaissance village. Beginning with the theoretical assumption that performan ce is constitutive of culture, community, festivalism restored behavior liminoid communitas performative agency The Festival is explored as a celebrato ry community that engages in social change through personal transformation. Employing reflexive ethnography and narrative as inquiry, Chapter Two catalogues and analyzes a broad range of festival performances, from stage acts and handcraft production, to p articipatory improvisation, dance, and song. Playful and liminoid, these performances invite participants to make performance commitments and mutually to produce community through participative performance, celebratory objects, and the surrender of persona l space.
vi Chapter Three argues that performances of alternative masculinities at festival alternative performances break down social barriers, promote self definition, and provide agency in the embodiment gendered experiences. Likewise, Chapter Four features ies of difference. The Wench, the Queen, and the Pirate She King all embody feminine power and serve as archetypes of feminine narratives that privilege self definition. This study demonstrates Festival to be a women centered community that engages in a my thopoeia of feminist history. Acknowledging Festival as a multi vocal community of mythopoets, this ethnography significantly extends the work of previous research on Renaissance Festivals. Rather than focusing on Festival performances as attempts at hist orical performers embody mythology and archetype to their own purposes. Moving away from an audience centered discussion of performance, this study demonstrates how in dividual performers, through personal transformation, become agents of change through performance.
1 Figure 1: Map of Puddleton ( Image courtesy of Mid America Festivals, Inc.)
2 CHAPT ER ONE TILTING THE WINDMILL: ON NARRATING FESTIVAL Mr. C armichael was every even though he ta ught history. He wore crystals on a leather cord around his neck an earring, and a large scarab ring. of his portable classroom. His shoulder length white hair, grown long ( I suppose ) to ma ke up for its lack on the front of his head, swayed in rhythm to the mantra. When he taught about Buddhism, he removed all the desks, burned incense in the corners of the room and arranged us in a circle on a Persian rug He crossed his legs in the lotus position, hands upturned looking like a Buddha himself. He was interesting, and interested in us, looking into our eyes intently, seeing things no one else saw in 14 year olds He expected excellence. He honor ed us. More importantly for us at fourteen, however, he let us watch movies in cl ass. They were historical dramas, offered so that we could taste the flavor of the M iddle A ges while, of course, he correct ed factual errors along the way; but movies broke up the otherwise monotonous ac ademic day. The performances were meant merely to augment was Henry II, and Catherine
3 ionable portrayal of Francis of Assisi formed my core notions of the medieval monk. Brother Sun, Sister Moon released in 1973, reinvents Francis as a forebear of the flower power revolution. And so it was no surprise to us when Mr. Carmichael suggested du ring the fall of our freshman year that we take a field trip to a south Florida Medieval Faire We were delighted: anything to get us out of classes for a day. After a hot and dusty two hour bus ride, we expected to step onto a giant outdoor stage devoted to his tory where we could walk among and interact with performed legends. Advertisements promised jousting tournaments, human combat chess, and the opportunity to observe social customs in the midst of a Medieval marketplace. The grounds were bu stling with performers, craftspeople, and visitors as we meandered between striped tents displaying hand made wares. In the aisles villagers walked alongside F ield s arranged for combat comedy or musical shows dotted the landscape School kids old and young jostled among the booths, not buying much beyond food pickles, turkey legs, soup in bread bowls, kebabs but generally enjoying the scenery escaping school for a day and cavorting through the medieval playground Even the rowdy kids who rolled their eyes at the whole experience had a new group of weirdoes to poke fun at. T here were as many old hippies walking the festival grounds as school children ancis. Long, gray pony tails and tie dyed shirts, biker jackets and chain mail bras blended in some fanciful
4 way with historical costumes and plainly dressed families simply out for a day at the fair e C ounter culture met educational opportunity with a fer ocity, creating a carnival like atmosphere with plenty of fantasy in the mix Pewter figurines for role playing games sold in booths right next to traditionally ha nd crafted swords and clothing. Booths selling crystals and incense butted up against armorer s and leather crafters. It seemed a quirky mix at the time, but despite the oddities, we played the games, gawked at the costumes, and participated in what Umberto Eco calls an escape into medieval romanticism. For the boys at least, the romance hinged on a dream of the Middle Ages as a barbaric fantasy world which allowed us to celebrate virility and brute force (Eco 1973, 69) We displayed our strength and skill at the games, throwing axes at targets or ringing a bell by striking a lever with a hammer. W e reveled in the jousts and sword play while displaying our manliness: messily eating greasy turkey legs and not washing our hands. The girls commented about how disgusting we were. We laughed off their comments and chased them with our mostly eaten turkey legs. Suddenly one of my friends turned on me, brandishing his turkey leg as though it were a sword. my royal foot up your royal buttocks from Becket One young wo man in particular Heidi, my nemesis in high school rolled her eyes at us. The Lion in Winter
5 All of the guys rolled with laughter while I tur ned scarlet. Heidi smiled a biting smile at me and raised her eyebrows before gathering her gaggle of friends, much like her own bevy of ladies in waiting, and disappeared down the lane. I left the Faire that day feeling frustrated and dissatisfied. It wa s at least partially because of the humiliation and sexual insecurity brought on by Heidi, my constant tormenter. But there was more than that. I had been hoping the whole affair would be a esque performances and La dies befitting too skinny The jousters had atrocious accents perhaps I was frustrated at my own level of participation? T he inv itation the nerve to get into character. Some of the more convincing actors seemed to welcome than of the rules to join the game. So I ate my turkey leg, watched a few shows, and went home with an a deck of cards in an embossed leather carrying case. My family members were ardent card players and the hand tooled scene of knights on horses seemed earthy and felt good in my hands; I still carry that card case to fami ly Euchre tournaments. But I went home wishing I had done more, wondering how much fun it might have been to play on that stage : walking among the acres of striped tents, w earing one of those brilliantly crafted costumes, putting on history for hours at a time, even if among the historical tourists and gothic weirdoes.
6 Years later, attending the Bay Area Renaissance Festival in south Florida, I realize d that, whether Mediev al Faire or Renaissance Festival, the performances at events like BARF (as is it jokingly known to participants) are mythological rather than historical. Roland Barthes (1972 ) envisions myth as naturalized narratives and symbols that come to signify social ly constructed assumptions My conception of Festival performances as mythic led me to several important questions. First, I looked back at my angst ridden youth and asked, what is it about these mythologies that so stirred my youthful longings for perfor mances of history and fantasy ? by which he means both Europeans and Americans have been obsessed with the Medieval since the ical stage on which which we mythologize ourselves. As boys, my friends and I played out our insecurities in bombastic swordplay meant to compensate for, at least in my cas e, continual torment by young women like Heidi. Looking back at the films Mr. Carmichael offered to us, I can lms veiled (and sometimes not so veiled) erotic tensions that symbolized the power struggles between mythological characters like Henry and Becket, Henry and Eleanor, or Richard the Lion Heart and Phillip of France. Lay atop that the social and economic co mmentary made by characters images of myself and the processes of my world.
7 A second, more important question became, what does performance do for me, both generally, and specifically as I enact these mythic characters? Performance was always for me a means of masking my passions or pains and simultaneously putting them on display. Or else it was a means of losing myself in a playful moment that separated me from those sam e passions and pains. In terms of gendered performances, the mythic quality of the character s a unique opportunity to idealize my interactions with women or with other men and to play out those idealizations bodily. But it does more than that. It changes me, if incrementally. Like Judith Butler, I wonder at the capacity of performative play to engender agency and transformation through my own performances. Finally, I asked, what is it about Festival that makes its invitations t o participate so intriguing? The community is about so much more than simple historical reenactment. How do ladies in finery and bikers in spiked leather make sense as constituents of the same storied world? How does a mlange of every set of heroes and he roines from King Arthur to The Three Musketeers (with any number of fantasy franchises thrown in for good measure) make for a cohesive performance? From my initial observations for a graduate research paper, these questions grew. This study is the result o f my now long years of association with the Bay Area Festival, and with several other Festivals and Faires in the state of Florida.
8 Statement of Purpose Bay Area Renaissan ce Festival constitute community and gender in and through performance. Beginning with the theoretical assumption that performance is constitutive of culture, community, and identity, this analysis focuses on how that process of constituting works for part icipants at Ren Fest community Specifically, I lay the foundation for the constitutive nature of performance and characterize Festival performances as reflexive, playful, and liminoid. I argue that, although R.W. Co Festival, significant reconstitutions of masculinity happen in and through performance. And finally, I demonstrate that Festival is a women centered community that is actively creating a femi nist mythohistory. I employ reflexive ethnography and narrative as inquiry to catalogue and analyze Festival performances of all types. Performance is the sea in which Festival participants swim. It is a grand stage on which traditional stage acts musicia ns, jugglers, knife throwers, and dancers mingle with improvisational comedy both on stage and in impromptu conversations in the lanes. Craftspeople create Festival personas, and by enacting their crafts they create art as performance. Every character on t he Festival over several years and with the participation of members of the Festiva l community, I
9 This study differs significantly from most research addressing living history and Renaissance Festivals in that it is, first and foremost, a performance studies project. It extends the work o f performance studies research in several important ways Aptly for this project, Ruth Laurion Bowman (1998) conceptualizes the field of performance studies as a complex carnival whose methodologies and interests create within its scholars a sense of verti go and disorientation. Bowman suggests that p erformance s tudies: l ooks at and handles things in a different way. It asks questions [others] don't ask. ursue otherwise. All departments need something like performance studie s to help shove the dust around. (Bowman 1998, 304) and ask questions that others have not. It looks at the constitution of community and gender as products of performance and play. And most importantly, it privileges pleasure and agency as constitutive elements of performance itself. The remainder of t his chap ter place s Ren Fest in i ts historical context and reviews literature relevant to t he study. T he theoretical perspec tives that inform my analysis festivalism, performance artist/performer as age nt. Additionally, Chapter One overviews the methodological approaches of the study reflexive ethnography and narrative as inquiry and highlights key issues of the study, providing an outline of the remaining chapters.
10 Contextualizing Festival : Background and Relevant Literature As Kim berly Korol Evans rt form arising out of the 1960 s folk movement, few written records narrat e the over 40 years of Festival development. Korol Evans has cobbled together a history of the movement based on newspapers and newsgroups, or festival magazines, as well as from interviews with participants and Festival directors. Her account meshes with the versions I have collected from long time performers at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival (or BARF as it is affectionately known to participants) both locals and those who travel from Faire to Faire In 1962, Phyllis Patterson, drama director for a Sou thern California youth center, dreamed up the first Renaissance Festival, complete with roving actors and an active marketplace. Searching high and low, Patterson stocked her Renaissance village with musicians skilled in archaic instruments, sandal makers, potters, weavers, and a handful of other craft hobbyists (Simons 2001). Her environmental theater (Schechner 1973, 1988) was as a fundraiser for a local radio station but was received so well that it became an annual event that grew each subsequent year The burgeoning Pleasure Faire with its focus on earthy hand craft and pleasure attracted the ever growing alternative hippie crowd. For Patterson, it was an exercise in diversity. In an online Festival newsgroup, she recounted: The faire I invented was t ruly an allegory concocted to appeal and invite participation on many varied levels. I believed there should be a great party
11 atmosphere of Eat, Drink and Be Merry! for those who came to party. Additionally, there should be history, theater, art, music, da nce and pageantry aplenty for those who want to plunge more deeply into the experience ( Patterson 1999) medieval studies graduate from Berkel e y California hosted a backyard graduation party featuring a tournament in which guests medievalists, and science fiction and fantasy buffs wore fencing masks, motorcycle helmets, and rudimentary costumes in order to compete in a tournament using wooden swords and other weapon s. From this Middle Ages themed party began the Society for Creative Anachronism with its credo, the SCA has become a national network with small groups meeting weekly o r monthly in communities nearly everywhere. As SCA groups and Pleasure Faire hippies and historical truists began to converge, the Ren Fest movement began a slow take off as a folk culture oddity. In 1972, organizers in Minnesota decided that the profit po tential for such festivals was enormous if appropriately marketed and managed. The alternative culture origins are still apparent at the Festivals amidst ladies dressed in finery are booths that offer henna body art, incense, and crafted pipes whose intend ed uses are clearly dubious. In the parking lot, vehicles covered in activist stickers Goddess G
12 Visitors today find the festivals an intriguing mixture of the ingredients of their origins. The first Minnesota Renaissance Festival still maintained the flair and flavor that diverse groups brought to its genesis. But as the them e park mentality took firm hold in the minds of the American public (Gottdeiner 2001), the mandate of the corporate vision became clear. Festival began to be transformed into an educational venture where uld be experienced by visitors in a family oriented and child friendly atmosphere. Large festivals like Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are widely known for the grand scale of their facilities and Florida refer to some of the northern instructors as Shakespearian Nazis. At these larger Faires, the crowd of vendors with ties purveyors of anachronism find it more and more difficult to justify their sney them. Frank one such craftsman, bemoans the transformation of Festival: en the Festivals used to be fun when bikers in Harley vest s could chase girls in rabbit skin bikinis down the aisles and no one would blink. This was no place for want you to speak like you lived in the 16 th a booth. my this is my life.
13 Some crafters claim that the Bay Area Festival is more like what Frank calls the old days like festivity. Defining Ren Fest: Carnivalesque Subversion or Festivalism? Kimberly Korol Renaiss ance Festivals: Merrying the Past and the Present (2009), is the most relevant research to this project. Korol Evans characterizes Festival as what Bakhtin (1968) would call a carnivalesque setting in which performers experience multiple states of immersio n in history by actively creating belief through ritual. I contend that Festival should not be characterized as carnivalesque subversively transgressive nor should it be treated as ritual, but rather as a playful outgrowth of w lis research on living history in general, and Renaissance Festival in particular, takes an audience centered, rather than performer centered approach that focuses on questions of immersive authenticity rather than on question s of performative agency. Below I make important distinctions among the terms carnival, carnivalesque, and festival to lay the groundwork for this ethnography. Carnival and C arnivalesque Renaissance Festivals are a double entendre of Carnival. They are at once performed representation s of carnivals and festivals that occurred in English villages during the Renaissance, and carnival like spaces with liminoid possibilities in the framework of modernity. While representing carnivalesque
14 transgression of Re naissance social norms performers simultaneously seek to transgress it must first be understood in the context of its attempts to represent the historical aspects of earlier festivals and carnivals. Mediterranean regions of fasting and reserve (P. Burke 1987; Findlen 1998) Other carnivalesque festivities throughout the year and in other climes throughout Europe included the twelve days of Christmas, Mayday, Pentecost, the feast of Saint John, All Saints, and various harvest festivals (Davis 1975). Carnival and these other carnival esque festivals upturned and derided the rules of order for everyday social structure and moral expectations. Food, displays of violence, and sex (both real and imagined) were usually important parts of the ritual play that celebrated all things low in dis paragement of all things high Comic inversions abounded (Bakhtin 1968; Stallybrass and White 1986) The medieval Feast of Fools which was organized by the younger members of clergy, involved the election of a Bishop of the Fools who wore vestments backwa rds, drinking and dancing in the church while singing obscene songs and jeering the attendees or else delivering nonsense messages (Davis 1975) These kinds of rough and tumble festivities exemplify the ways in which Festivals celebrated a world turned ups ide down (Muir 1981) Topsy turvy inversion varied widely from mock kings and bishops to cross dressing and prurient satires.
15 Even today, theorists debate the meaning of such inversion, not only in Medieval and Renassiance carnival, but in modern festive s ettings. Such celebrations have been described by anthropologists such as Victor Turner (1969) and Max Gluckman (196 3 ) in terms of being a societal safety valve in which rituals of rebellion allow for controlled releases of hierarchical tensions in a spa ce that is set apart from the everyday. Other authors such as literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin (1968) offer a more subversive analysis, that carnival provides space for a separate sphere of experience and critique that is independent of hierarchy and in f act becomes an alternative to it by creating change. It is a sphere of liberation, annihilation and renewal. Bakhtin observes the grotesque realism of Carnival calling attention to it as an underworld of t he higher society. He emphasizes its ambivalence ( it simultaneously praised and abused what it imitated), its duality of the body (an ingesting and secreting low body verses a reasoning and pious high body), and its incompleteness analysis, Natalie Zemon Davis (1975) argues that carnival is much more than a safety valve; rather, it has the power both to reinforce existing orders or to critique them while promoting rebellion. Stalleybrass and White note two significant veins of carnivalesque transgression: displays of the grotesque and indulgences of physical and sexual appetites. They focus on the production of identity and status which come from repudiating that which is low ( 1986, ix) and the celebration of dirt, excess, and the body as ple asurably celebratory in corporate ritual ( 1986, 106). The dual nature of such carnivalesque transgression lies in that it is simulta neously praises and abuses the high while s low
16 beyond the festive occasion making a difference in any number of ways. Liminal, or liminoid spaces created by taboo breaking enable the consideration of new and alt ernative ideas. Whether liminoid festivity is indeed a safety valve or a force for change is largely dependent upon circumstances (Davis 1965), but perhaps a more important question should be asked in terms of what carnival does n ot for a broad collectiv e but for a community of performers as agents in the constitution of their own identities and the identity of the community. Edward Muir notes that carnival can best be understood in terms of performances which are independent of any particular social func tions they might serve. Muir calls carnival and the carnivalesque festivities and performance genres that have sprung from it (both in early modern Europe and in more modern performance forms) ambiguous and unpredictable forms of communal play which exist somewhere the very ambiguity of the performances and their functional character that makes them 1981 114). But is Renaissance Festival a ground for protest performance? Although this dissertation argues for the transformative potential of Festival performances for individuals, and by extension for the Festival community, I contend that construing Ren Fest as overtly subversive misrepresents its more conservative performances of conventional culture, mythologies, and gender norms. Festival negotiates between performers as agents and a consumer culture.
17 Festival : B etween C arnival and S pectacle Using performance as a f rame for understanding the theatrics of global capitalism and conflicts surround ing it, David Boje (2000, 200 1, 2005 ) envisions a difference between spectacle and carnival noting the conflicting theatrical motivations of corporate organized and mediated sp ectacles and the carnivalesque atmospheres of symbolic resistance like anti sweatshop and anti globalization protests. In what he terms spectacle, Boje sees a manipulation of meaning making enacted through theatrical events that serve the production of pow er and managerial needs o f corporations like Disney and Nike. He calls carnival a theatric of rant and madness that seeks release from corporate power in order to stem the tide of alienation that comes from global capitalism. Rather than being carnivalesqu e, Renaissance Festival might just as easily be envisioned as spectacle a consumptive marketplace that plays into the theatrics of global capitalism 1 A number of Festival regulars make the observation that Ren Fest has moved significantly in this directio n since becoming a corporate endeavor. As an alternative to both spectacle and carnival, Boje (2005) argues for the term festivali s m a concept that navigates between gaudy consumption and radical reversal. For Boje, s pectacle serves as a legitimating narr ative that is selective in its storytelling while carnival serves to subvert that narrative. Spectacle is a celebration of material things for the purpose of selling a controlled consumption while carnival is the 1 spectacle as something that c onvert s performance material s into constructed community histories or develops agenda s of community action (1990, 119). For Boje, spectacle capitalism manipulates audiences
18 disordered, subversive consumption. As comm unities of performance, Spectacle, c arnival and f estival may all employ theatrics, storytelling, and crafts, but Boje defines festival as a natural outgrowth of co mmunal celebration. Spectacle, carnival and f estival may occur simultaneously at one event, h e argues, depending on the orientation of the individual actors participating in the scene. One participant may experience the materiality of the spectacle, one may experience the subversion of carnival, while yet another may experience the celebration as a holistic outgrowth of a sense of a community constituting and constituted by the event. This sense of festival may encompass consumption and subversion, but it is not marked by it for they are not necessary to the experience but rather outgrowths of it. Boje uses the example of Renaissance f esti vals, along with Shakespearean fe stiv als, harvest festivals, and even craft fairs or film and music f estivals to exemplify the constitution of communities in Festive performance. Though spectacles like Disney parks or other themed entertainment venues may appear to do the same thing as these Festivals Reenactment f estivals, he argues, begin as communal celebrations of a reverence for particular times or places. C ons truct ing fantasies that elaborate upon the best of the good old days, t hey go to great lengths to recreate dress, architecture, or social realities that are outpourings of what the community sees as the best of itself or an expression of what it longs to b e. But even in the midst of this kind of communal outpouring, Boje notes, there may be much of contemporary spectacle mixed in. He uses as an example The Colorado Renaissance Festival which sells a Royal Wedding experience for $2,500. The corporate owners hip of
19 nearly all of the largest Ren Fest venues speaks to the growing Spectacle esque nature of these events. But despite this move towards corporate management and an ethic of consumptive entertainment, Festival is still experienced by its costumed visit ors and actors as just that: a Festival of the community. Festivalism may have an activist agenda, but it is empowered in play, self reflection, social commentary, and plea s ure. he way community is experienced at the Renaissance Festival. Its performances are multivocal and diverse. The motivations of its crafts people and actors, casual attendees and committed patrons, or even of its inner circle are often at cross purposes with one another. And yet Festival functions cohesively as both carnival of performance and market place of history. My participant observation in this study ng voice to communal celebration and the ways that it empowers them. Relevant Research on Living History and Renaissance Festivals Although scholars across a number of discipline deal broadly with public rituals, festivals, pageantry and spectacles, Renaissance Festivals have received little scholarly attention; they are even more rarely studied as performance Richard Schechner (1985) referen c es them as parts of larger studies performance communities. Other studies are primarily descriptive or anthropological. A 2004 dissertation gives an overview of Ren Fest history and a detailed account of what
20 happens at Festival, describing it as a place of safety to explore community and identity (Gunnels 2004). Stephen Snow (1993) explores Plimouth Plantation in order to expand the definition of performance to include living history sites, but l iving history scholars deal primarily with his torical recreations as sites of performed anthropology asking questions that touch on accuracy and authenticity. Jay Anderson (1984, 12) calls living history simulations ast more effective while Richard Handler and Eric Gable (1997) use Colonial Williamsburg to illustrate the structural limitations of living history museums that try accurately to portray social history. More recently, Scott Magelssen (2008) contests the authenticity of living history, calling the pursuit of historical accuracy a cultural farce. Going beyond questions of accuracy, studies in other fields still hinge on questions of authenticity. Hyounggon Kim (2004) approaches Festival as a tourist sight, describing its sense of existential authenticity. Kimb erly Korol Evans (2009) treats F estival as a modern day carnival, arguing that Renaissance Festival is the progeny of what Bakhtin describes as carnivalesque. For Korol Evans, Festival provides for an immersion that is transportive and ultimately authentic. Moving beyond questions of authenticity, Richard Schechner (1985) highlights the anachronisms endemic to re creation. He define s performance s generally as restored behaviors Schechner imagines bits of behavior elements of a dance, scripted dialogue from a play, pieces of ritual, or even sets of behavioral expectations laid out like strips
21 (2002, 36). To historical recreations and recreations of mythologized pasts he applies subjunctive mood of behavior used to express our wishes, emotions and possi bilities. The performer, performing an imagined past, is pretending to be someone else, doing something else that may not have ever been individual and groups the chance to re become what they once were or even, and most As educational endeavors Renaissance Festivals in America explicitly present themselves as faithfully restored behavior indicat ive of the times which they represent. BARF invites patrons to experience: an authentic taste of life in 16 th Century England a cast of 300 professional actors and mu sici a ns reproducing authentic dress, accent, speech and behavior over 100 of the finest craftspeople and artisans in the country, invited by jury decision to represent period artistry a culinary experience reminiscent of the times Schechner described Plimouth Plantation living history ideal. Rat her, it provides an opportunity for disparate cultural groups to
22 A performance perspective of living history requires a retooling of the living mythohistory and fantasy in order to tell stories that best reflect our justifications of ourselves. As Kenneth Burke (1937) describes We asse rt our values into the future and check them against our myths of the past. For Schechner, History so events, memories, records: all shaped by the world view of whoever [sic] individually or collectively ething with what has been done (1985, 50 51) collective poem that, as an art form, can be said to have an intrinsic value for its own sake, but that is also political. For Burke, drama take s on the form of what he calls a wherein a rtists extol a program of attitudes and emphases which then feed back into the realities they represent. things to the way performers believe thing ought to be. Judith Butler argues that one means by which feedback occurs is through performativity which she d escribes as that acquires such taken for conceals or dissimulates the conventions of Although performativity often serves to conservatively reinscribe c
23 996, 2). As Elin Diamond argues, i t is impossible to write the pleasurable embodiments we call performance without tangling with the c ultural stories, traditions, and political contestations that 1996, 1) Diamond presents performance as a site of contested meaning and as an endeavor through which new political perspectives become emerge nt James Clifford improvise local performances from (re)collected pasts c ontested, temporal and emergent nature of culture itself. P erformance according to Diamond site in which concealed 1996, 5). The Renaissance Festival proves a unique case for consideration of the public engagement of events, memory and records as a cultural phenomenon, particularly from a performance studies perspect 1995, 82). Performance literally constitutes the Festival community, not only in the sense that performance is the busine ss of the Ren Fest, but because performance iterates the community. The questions that have not been asked about Festival are the ones that most interest the performance studies scholar. Herbert Blau (1990, 257) defines the heart of performance as liberation of the performer as an actor who, laminated with appearance, struggles to appear By whatever means, the actor achieves autonomy. Performance studies sees performer and performance as the objects of its study. Performance is not the transmission of accurate or inaccurate information, nor is it merely a product produced for an audience, nor yet even a transporting moment wherein an actor may commune
24 with setting or place. It is all of these things, but it does more than these things. Performance shapes and is sha ped by the agent who performs. Butler conceived of and developed the notion of performativity specifically in the context of gendered performances. Performers, through their performances, contest conventions of gender become contested at Festival. In a re cent M.A thesis Andie Markijohn (2009, 1) She answers that question ultimately in terms of audience, tentatively noting that Festival ore important question hinges on how performances of gender gender performers. More important than questions of audience, for this study, are questions of how performance engages the agency of the performer. Previous studies of Renaissance Festivals have overlooked a number of important dream of the Middle Ages an impossible dream almost s urreal in it s combinations of history and fantasy, of re creation and transformation, of consumption and transgression. In its whirlwind of voices, festivalistic community rather than transportive immersion or cultural authenticity better explains the limi noid experience of Ren Fest. I agree that Festival is immersive, but not in the way Korol Evans describes. It is transportive to a degree, but by means of performance, not temporal displacement or overt cultural subversi ons Neither does Festival seek auth enticity of re creation as its most important
25 aim. Rather, Ren Fest invites participant voices to get into the act on a mythological stage. This project extends the work of other scholars who have researched Renaissance Festivals. To continue the jousting in three important ways. First, it acknowledges Festival as l a ying somewhere between carnivalesque subversion and spectacle capitalism. Second, it stretches beyond questions of authenticity, accuracy, and belief to h ighlight the ways Festival performers mythologize history in order to reinscribe social reality through their play Finally, this study moves away from an audience centered analysis of performance. Chapter Two discusses levels of audience participation, bu t only to contextualize the role of Festival patrons who become mutual producers of the performance community. Informed by perspectives that highlight community and ag ency, this dissertation gives performers and their performances center stage. Methodology: Reflexive Ethnography and Narrative as Inquiry My observation s of the Bay Area Renaissance Festival began in 2001 as an investigation of performance and ritual and their respective roles in helping to create senses of historical authenticity. I naively entered the F estival arena as a distant observer, gaining a press pass and stalking the grounds of the Faire twice weekly as an outsider trying to make sense of the ex perience as audience member. Six long weeks later after wading through my field notes, I realized this cultural world required a much different
26 pass in order to do justice to its complexity. I began to think more seriously about the potential breadth of st udy possible at this site, and I set my goal to participate as a cast member the next season. Six weeks of rehearsal and six weeks of performance yielded reams of narrative data that have continued to grow as I have become an active participant in the Fest ival community. My method of data collection has been reflexive ethnography. In addition, the writing of an ethnographic text becomes in itself a means of analysis. N arrati ve as inquiry is an important step in the process In many ways ethnographic data co llection and narrative as inquiry are really two stages of one method, 6 6). For Clifford, ethnography as social science is inseparable from wri ting as a means of repr esentation, both in field notes ( which cannot be viewed as objective ) and in the final rhetorical constructi on of an ethnographic narrative ( which ought to have appropriate reflexivity that acknowledges the challenges of representat ion ) Reflexive Ethnography Anthropological methods of inquiry have made a profoun d impact on the disciplines of c om munication (most especially in cultural and performance studies) and h istory. As Robert Darnton (1984, 3) observes, cultural history hist ory from below is the study of past cultures (Hunt 1989, 12) Likewise, the study of culture in Communication is an endeavor that focuses on meaning in the present. As Clifford
27 good claimed: The dominant way of knowing in the academy is that of empirical observation anchored i n paradigm and secured in print. This propositional knowledge is shadowed by another way of knowing that is grounded in active, intimate, hands (2002, 146) As participant observer, the ethnographer is envisioned by Conquergood as a co performer witness who takes an active role in the witnessed community. e s 1999, 5). It is a method of lookin experience and grappling with the dilemma of relating reality in a subjective manner (Behar 1993, 1996; Ellis and Flaherty 1993; Goodall 1989, 1991; Krieger 1991; Richardson 1997). Although ethnography is not necessarily ab out personal experience, it can never exclude ongoing attempt to place specific encounters, events, and understanding into a fuller, 2000, 455). She makes a shift fro m the notion of participant author observes herself in the act of participating, reflecting on the culture of others, but
28 also the impact of that culture on herself a nd her impact on the thing observed. This toward representing ourselves in the act of engaging with and writing about our selves in interaction with other selves ( 1991 79). Over the course of the last nine years, first as an outside observer, then as participant observer as a cast member for two years and as a costumed participant afterwards, I have had the opportunity to interact firsthand with cast, craftspeople, a nd patrons I began attending Festival as a non costumed patron in 2001 in order to conduct observations of performances and interviews with performers. At that time, I collected both audio and video recordings of improvisational performances in the villag e lanes stage acts, and loosely structured interviews with cast members, craftspeople, and patrons. played the role of bound journal and period pen in hand, I collected field notes of character interactions and backstage conversations for two seasons. Most of the performers were aware of my research, but many were not. My dual role as both performer and researcher prompte d a number of intriguing interactions. For example, on one occasion I sat down to eat lunch scrawl some notes. Hodad told me, dropping character but still using an accent, t o take a break.
29 pretending to Chronicle. What kind of things do you Since 2003, I have continued to attend Festival in costume to collect notes on performances and to continue interviewing performers an d patrons. I have collected Ren Fes t crafts, music, and literature; I ha ve phot ographed performers and patrons; I have b ecome a regular participant in I nternet d iscussion forums; and I have observed events sponsored by the Society for Creative Anachronism. My experience s at Festival range from uncommitted outsider to cast mem ber, to committed patron and member of the community. I have had the opportunity to converse with literally hundreds of performers and patrons both at Festival and in informal interviews outside of festival. In attempting to represent the multivocality of Festival, several key informants among both the itinerate Festival performers and the local cast have become cen tral to the data of this study. Luke Cooper Frank Henkel and Daphne the Wench have been the core of the ons. As Rennies they live an itinerate lifestyle and make their livings solely from Festival. Luke is a master glass blower, and Frank hand crafts recreations of historical statuary. Daphne is the leader of a
30 success ful performance group known as The Washi ng Well Wenches. Among the cast of local performers, Jacky Tappet and Queen Catherine have provided tremendous detail and feedback. Jacky works as a dialect and costuming coach for Festival and is a self glish and historical re creation. Catherine is a professional actress who organizes her schedule around Festival. Tegan, Brandon, Jaryd, and Tina are unpaid performers who help populate the village every year, while patrons like Ken and Johnny have become costumed regulars. All of these performers and patrons will figure heavily as voices in the chapters to come. Narrative as Inquiry If ethnography is a means of observation, narrative is its necessary counterpart in representation. John Van Maanen describ es the ethnographer as one who tells striking stories. Their materials are words, metaphors, phrasings, imagery, and most critically, the expansive recall of fieldwork experience. When these are put together and told in the first person as a tightly focuse d, vibrant, exact, but necessarily imaginative rendering of fieldwork, an impressionist tale of the field results ( 1988, 102) In this case, as Laurel Richardson puts it, writing becomes not only a means of representation, but a method of inquiry. It is : a way of finding out about yourself and your topic. Although we usually think
31 mopping up activity at the end of a research project. Writing is also a way of a metho d of discovery and analysis (2000, 923) H. both argumentative and poetic fieldwork, must of necessity take the form of narrative. Robert Coles makes the observation that encompassing the complexity of lived moments cannot be done solely matter of translating f ie ld notes into prose (Richardson 1990). All social scientists can be 199 3 32), but the best spinners utiliz e narrative to translate knowing into telling. Good narrative orders our notions of reality and identity (Fisher 1984; Crites 1986, 1989; Coles 1989) and is a means of clearly organizing complexities of thought unapproachable by means of raw theory (White 1980) Narrative then, is a valuable tool for knowing. It is a means not only of representation, but of self discovery. In order to construct a narrative of the community I have sought to validate my research by allowing members of the Festival communit y to review the earlier drafts of my writing. Cast members have been vocal in confirming and critiquing the interpretive focus the direction of the project. Initially, I did not highlight gendered performances, but because of the feedback I received on the stories I was telling, my research has taken new and unexpected directions.
32 Outline of Chapters Th is first chapter introduce s the historical and theoretical contex t through which the next three chapters should be read. I have overviewed relevant literature and summarized my methodology. Chapter Two introduces Puddleton, a community in which performers and patrons co create culture and individuals experience identity through performance. This chapter presents Festival as a unique community that obscures traditional differences between audience and performer by inviting participants to immerse themselves in relationships through performance. In addition, Puddleton is a village where the somatic experience of culture is accomplished through the performance of cultural production. Artifacts become more than consumed goods, and link producer and patron physically and psychically. Finally I argue that Festival is a locus fo r enactments performers actively create embodied stories about themselves that serve as new archetypes to facilitate the presentation and understanding of the self through community. In Chapter Three hegemonic masculi nity serves as a backdrop against which alternative myths and masculine physicalities are embodied. These alternative performances of masculinity at Festival represent attempts to significant reconstitute gender and are experienced by individual performers as transformative. Five specific performers serve as examplars of masculine reconfiguration that challenge conventional performances of masculinity. Two of th ese performances illustrate the ways that performance can serve to open the field (Connell 1995) in terms of the way men experience gender and sexual orientation. In addition, in this chapter I attempt to
33 reconcile R.W. (1995) with a positive, but less deterministic conception of Jungian arch etypes. The fourth chapter argues that gender performativity enables the agency of the performer. Three types of women performers illustrate the transgressive performance of es Guild use wench to signify feminine freedom. Queens and Ladies embody feminine power defined in f eminist terms. And pirate women serve to illustrate the female masculine in a move towards decoupling gender altogether. Chapter Four argues that Ren Fest i s a community with a feminist bent, and it hinges on an experience of community that is em boldened by archetype s of feminine power and feminist narratives. Festival fights head on the notion that men are superior and becomes a model of communities dependan t on individual agency and self definition. Bell (2008 20 and individuals as performative agents, I hope to bring a deeper understanding to the means by which performance is constitutive of both culture and community. As agents of our own transformation, we are all performers laminated with appearance and struggl ing to appear Through a deeper understanding of the interaction between the products and processes of history, myth, and performance at Festival, I seek to provide insights int o the ways in which performance becomes a means of appearing.
34 CHAPTER TWO A DAY AT THE FAIRE: COMMUNITY AND CULTURE CONSTITUTED IN PERFORMANCE Play is the exultation of the possible. (Martin Buber 1957, 21) We begin in a circle, the women curtsying while the men bow deeply in what is described by the French te rm as a reverence As we join hands, the pipe, fiddle, and commence the dance. Eight steps to the left, a single turn, then eight steps back, and we are ready for the double circle. The women watc h as the men step into the circle, our right arms pointed toward the center while we dance the circle clockwise As we step back out of the circle, the women take our places and repeat the inner dancing circle. Now the music speeds up and the women return to the outer circle as the men move inward to clap We trade places, moving outward as the women enter the circle to repeat our clap Rhythmically the circles move in and out past each other as the music continues to gain speed. We finish the dance once m ore in the outer circle as we move around clockwise, twirling as we go. The music winds to a close, and we reverence once more, with crowds cheering. We are not paid festival performers, but patrons who have just learned the simple dance. We misstep throug hout the performance and laugh as we
35 learn. One young woman bows instead of curtsying, and her escort curtsies in reply, lifting the skirt of his tunic daintily, which brings another fit of laughter. Figure 2 I come to the Renaissance Festival to play. The game is a day long venture where I am transported into another time and space, which I know for pretend. I speak its chain of bei their anachronistic quirkinesses with no other aim than pleasure in the game itself. As John Huizinga (1938/1950) argues, that al though nothing is produced in this kind of play, the resulting performance is a significant cultural activity. Fun itself is the aim of the performance. And yet, as Huizinga also claims, play creates community through the palisade walls, there is serious business that gets done while I play. We are creating a
36 community in our performance a community that goes beyond the fictional village which serves as our stage. This chapter makes the case that festival is a community c onstituted in performance and marked by the ways in which its participants create culture and enact identity through performance. Festival is unique in the ways that it ( 1) invites participation in the performance, blurring the boundaries between audience and performer; ( 2) reclaims material culture and the means by which it is produced through performance; and ( 3) mythologizes identities by engaging in creative reformation of inhabitants Rennies, Actors, Crafters, Patrons and Playtrons and how those commitments to engage, to embody, and to surrender space enable participants to produc e the community. Next, I explore the world of Festival handcraft and argue that crafters like Luke and Frank build relationships with consumers in a marketplace of celebratory art as festivalisti c performance shows how Ren Fest functions as a mythological community of difference. To understand these three ways that performance organizes this community and enables identities, below I utilize the theories of John Huizinga, Victor Turner, and contemp orary performance theorists to describe the operations of reflexivity and play at Festival performers are essential to understanding how performative play does the work of constitution.
37 The Constitutive Nature of Performance Before delving into the nature of Puddleton as a performance community, it is important to understand, broadly, what performance does in reference to the study of communication and culture. Performance is, as Victor Turner points out, more than simply mimesis, or empty imitation of life. Rather it is an act of poiesis, the creation of social realities, as Turner describes it ( notion is that performances partic ularly ritual performances facilitate the creation of identity and community. Performance theorist Richard Schechner agrees, saying that (2002, 22). Those stories are to behaviors marked by reflection and mental or physical rehearsal for the purpose of making claims about our iden tities and telling stories about our communities. Reflection and Reflexivity The stories about self and community that we tell through performance are both reflective and reflexive. As reflections of an existing social reality performances say something a bout the expectations we have for appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Or, reverence is a festival mem e that reflects a gendered notion of performance possibilities. Men reverence women curtsy. The breakdown of this expectation in the anecdote above in which a
38 woman reveranced revealed a clear understanding that a rule had been broken, resulting in laug expectations of the situation. These embodied expectations are employed first, out of ne cessity and second, out of deference to rules of gender. Both the bodice/hoopskirt and the curtsy embody restraint both physically and socially. A reverence is a broad and sweeping thing; the man stretches out his front foot while spreading his arms wide the one pointing down hat in one hand sweeping it back, plumage broadening and heightening the expansiveness of the motion even more. This gesture signifies the role of the man towards his woman, and towards his world. Only men are allowed the freedom to fawn and to flourish. The daily repetition of gendered behaviors, what Jud ith Butler (1988) calls performat ivity is one example of the ways that everyday life performances (Goffman 1959) reflect, and thus promote, existing realities. In repeating expected behaviors, we participate in what Kenneth Burke (1941) describes as a conversation that is already going on using a vocab ulary that already exists and that employs limiting terms. Our performances, which reiterate existing vocabularies, continue to carry what we know into effect. But the notion of agency is always also implicit in performance. Dwight Conquergo crossing, shape shifting, and boundary violating figures, such as shamans, tricksters, and jokers, who value the carnivalesque over the canonical, the transformative over the normative, the mobile over
39 reflexive aspect of performance its ability to push back against culture and reality that makes performance so powerful. In this way, trans 84). Festival is not only a performance community, it is also a community performance where different notions of social reality are not merely invited; they are central to the texture of the show. Work and Play In addition to its constitutive nature, Elizab eth Bell (2008) describes performance as both epistemic and critical As constitutive, it brings notions of social reality and identity into being. As epistemic, it is a way of knowing. Ronald Pelias (1998, 16) calls ourselves and the world around us. As a critical endeavor, performance stakes claims about our underlying assumptions. D. Soyini Madison (2005) argues that both the production and the study of performance not on ly can yield insights into the critical expressions within interpretive communities and provide the ability to name and analyze what performers and audiences intuitively feel, but it can also demystify the ubiquities of power and promote social change
40 The work of performance is the same described by James Carey (1969) as the ritual role of all communication: the creation, maintenance, repair, and transformation of social reality. It does so in richly symbolic ways, reflected upon, rehearsed, embodied, and savored as a shared production. But the work of performance can never overshadow Just as Dutch anthropologist John Huizinga proposed a radically new conception of play as an activity that exists only for its own sake, so performance can be understood as existing to service the pleasure of the actor who is somatically celebrating the power of the possible. For Huizinga, the absorption, uncertainty, illusion, and exaggerat ion that exist outside ordinary life in play are fundamental elements of human culture. So too, Festival is a community founded on the joy of performative play. It is absorbing, unsettling, magical, and bigger than life outside. Through it, we exult in pos sibilities highlighted by an imagined past in order to create programs enabling who we wish to be in the present. A Community of Performers T he most serious wor community of performers. Huizinga tells us that play is voluntary, is outside ordinary life, has fixed rules and boundaries, and promotes social groups and secrets. For Huizinga, play is an unreal interlude in our lives that has a prescribed time and place, and rules that govern our behavior. It c reates social bonds through these rules, and through its secrets. There are insider s and outsiders in play, and crossing the boundary to the inside is like entering
41 a magic circle where disbelief is suspended, and players accept the conditions of the game that make it possible. When I go to Festival, I put on a uniform, enter a playing field, turn off my mobile phone, and participate in a community. My level of participation my immersion in the secrets of this world determine at what level I am a part of t he group. But at any level the magic is there beckoning me to the center of the circle. Welcome to My Ground of Play The Festival setting itself is a giant playground sectioned off from the world outside. Entering the parking lot, I am invited into th e first level of immersion. Walking through rows of cars, I look left and right to see garbed patrons adjusting hoop skirts, or donning kilts, or draping themselves with the most rudimentary skeins of fabric to give some period effect. Others wear their st reet clothes. They slip on sun glasses or baseball made clay mug strapped to my belt for drinking; they have bottles of water and sports drinks. Together, we move e. It rises before us as both set piece and magical boundary, holding back the tide of modernity. As though springing from the ground in the dusty morning, the Queen and her Court join us, themselves striding through the parking lot and inviting us out of our world into theirs. A member of the court tells us they are the local inn. We should not expect to find a room. The court will take up most of the inn,
42 and we should plan to be gone by evening. The effect is almost surreal like a Brigadoon rising up out of the mist once every hundred years only to disappear at the end of the day. trained to interact with the crowd when long lines queue up at the ticket booth. Telling us what is inside, they encourage us to make a first tentative step into participation. Dare we speak in period speech? Garbed patrons play along, while the half garb ed may throw in an accented expression, trying it out before giggling nervously. Did I do it right? The women among the trained performers and some garbed patrons curtsy to the King and Queen, while the men sweep down into a deep reverence until they are b idden to rise. Figure 3 : The Queen and King Arrive to Enter Puddleton w ith Us One year pirates have invaded the surrounding area, and the royals are here to see their chao among the locals against the monarchy. Whatever the tale, it gives rise to human combat chess in the morning, and fighting in the streets later in the evening. Sometimes there are
43 weddings; at other times betrothals or reconciliations, all leading to feasting, drinking, singing, and dancing. But it all happens within; you must come and see! Daphne, now a professional Ren Fest performer, describes to me her first crossing of t to the edge of the festival wall simply wanting a day of escape f rom the troubled life of foster than thou ultra conservat ive right fee. Creeping around the side of the palisade a wooden fence with a cren ellated top she sneaked back through the wetlands that bordered one side and slid into the Festival grounds under a hole in the fence. There was a guy who ran a fencing booth here his name was Kip and he caught me at the fencing booth and started laughing at me. As a teenager, I was T hen I was indignant that he was laughing at me. And then Fortuitously, Daphne had competitive experience in fencing, and Kip made her an apprentice. In short order she was training other newcomers, and eventually she began her own show, The Washing Well Wenches Daphne describes her experience, both literally and figuratively, as one of escape. the next day and found some blousy shirt, a pair of black pants I could tight roll,
44 and a pair of boots that looked medieva l. This place has been like my home ever As fantasylands go, Festival is pretty mundane. In an increasingly themed entertainment world where even malls and hotels become Disney esque environmental stages, it is difficult for Festivals like this o ne to compete (Gottdeiner 2001). B ut we are immersed to a degree. As we enter the front gates, we are greeted by a Celtic folk band guitar, fiddle and hammered dulcimer and a knot of dancing wenches. The smell of grille d turkey legs already wafts through the air. Off to the right we can see the orange glow of the fire; beyond that is a row of Tudor style buildings curving off into the landscape that is dotted everywhere with great grandfather oaks. In front of the lane to the left is a maypole, and down the lane are more storefronts. One is an armory with swords gleam ing in rays of light that slant through the trees and are caught by the already swirling dust. The center lane has striped tents and cano pies rather than permanent Cooper is already out this morning demonstrating the traditional craft. The heat from his kilns makes the air shimmer. The space may be Richard anachronisms in a se a of tourists (1985, 87) but i t i can only be explained by the transportive power of performance.
45 Liminal and Liminoid Moments Victor Turner describes a kind of experience common to cultures in which ritualized performances create moments of passage. He calls the state through which one passes in that interstitial moment of ritual l iminality ; it is a moment that is neither here nor there, and serves to move individuals from one stage of life to another from boyhood to manhood for example. Turner argues that these moments are few and far liminal experience. But Kim Korol (2006) describes the immersive experience of weekend long Renaissance Festival performances for weeks at a time as mov ing performers int o what Turner calls liminoid experience (1969) Liminal spaces for Turner were collective experiences concerned with crisis and cyclical rites of passage which are integrated into the fabric of society and are unavoidable. Liminoid spaces are also collect ive experiences but are more likely to occur in consumer societies at large scale events where norms can be relaxed, like carnival, sporting events, theater, or festivals. Such events happen on the margin of society, are consumed by personal choice, and ca n challenge social order in important ways. Korol goes further to describe festival not as an empty interstice a place that is neither here nor there but rather as a filled intra stice 15). Stepping into Puddleton, I have to work my way through layers of immersion. When I first attend, I come un costumed, alone, seeking to observe to get my bearings. I am at once approached by a costumed performer and invited to speak in the language of festival.
46 ent at all, I e Explaining the art with great detail, Luke builds bridges between then and now He expla ins that glass blowing in the Renaissance and today are essentially the same. His simple tools a long metal blow pipe, a wooden paddle saturated with water, a piece of metal for scoring the glass, and wet paper are temporally connected with the time period all come from either the original French or Latin, and through his craft we can pres ent day craftsman guiding our minds backward in time. Luke is both here and there and he invites us go there Closing his show, he invites us to leave money in his hat, and concludes: Now when you walked into that front gate up there, you walked into our village. difference. But this village was put here so that you villagers could come here and enjoy yourselves. You can leave the village outside behind and just play here for
47 awhile, and I hope you enjoy it; because if you get lost in Puddleton, I know next week, and hopefully next year. in a liminoid play place a village within a village. As we cross the first threshold, the physical gate, we are invited in further. If we more deeply to the performance, in the lanes later. The stage shows require intense audience engagement, and performers walk the lanes and shops with us, striking up conversation. They eat with us, gossip with us, and sit on the ground to play games with us. Figure 4: Just Inside the Gate: The Maypole and a Typical Lane Festival invites me to the liminoid into the intrastice. It is an invitat ion to step out of myself and into another time and place For some performers it is a mobile community that defines them, transporting them to what Hyounggon Kim (2004, 191) describes as a id experience of
48 communitas (V. Turner 1988), a special sense of intimacy and commonality that grows out of the anti structural nature of liminal and liminoid moments. Edi th Turner (2005, 97) that The Parting Glass: Performance Aims of Festival At the end of the day, I have seen juggling acts, gypsy belly dancers, a mounted joust, and human comb at chess. I have traded riddles with the French Dauphin, eaten scotch eggs with a random assortment of goth teenagers, and paid five dollars to try my hand at fencing. I have purchased a few trinkets a glass pen from the glass blower, a CD of Celtic music, and a leather journal, richly embossed in Celtic knotwork. Dirty from the dust clouds and weary, I plop down at a table in front of the stage at the The On the long wooden tables un der the oak s the crowd raises its glasses to toast the king and queen. Irish pirates in hats decorated with long plumes mingle with gypsy dancers draped in sheer scarves and bells. The musicians wear plain woolens while the court dresses in brocaded silks or embroidered velvets and satins F amilies with strollers, visitor s partially costumed and guests sporting tattoos, face rings, black leather, spiked collars and multi hued hair mingle with visitors who are decked out in period garb that is even more i mpressive than the paid performers Two things unite this mismatched collection of festival participants beer and song. Each of the music groups at the Festival take turns on the stage. Many in the crowd know the songs and join in. The rest
49 of us fake it. After several songs, the king booms in over the din of cheering and laughing pleased with your merry making, and with your toast s ght! Thank thee indeed. But the thought which we now have to impart to thee i The crowd murmurs its displeasure. He shakes his head in mock sadness and raises his wooden mug covered in worked leather. other murmur of disappointment spreads like a wave, but the king continues. As he speaks, lords, ladi es, commoners, and visitors in t shirts, shorts and blue jeans make a last dash to the window of the Round World Inn, a tiny round thatch roofed pavilion, just a few feet away. rd, together one purposeful and good parting glass! Now you all, follow by the pipers call and costumed patrons echo these last three words: Rafferty the Piper fires up his Uilleann Pipes, an Irish version of the bagpipes, and we all march toward closing gate. Outside, drummers are already drumming and women in bright silks and belly dancing gypsies begin to swirl to the tribal rhythms They are joined by t shirted visitors and black clad Goth kids with low hanging pants and pierced tongues. A few middle aged women shrug and begin to shimmy, dragging with them
50 their reluctant hu sbands who give in without much resistance. T he piper and the drummers blend their music together in a coalition that suggests a unity and diversity that is at the heart of this performance community great kilt and se em to clash here Finally, King, Queen, and their attendants now on top of the palisade wall over the gate, call for our attention. They ask us to join them in a traditional song of parting. Of all the mo ney ere I had I spent it in good company. Alas was done to none but me. And all I've done For want of wit To memory now I can't recall; So fill me to the parting glass Goodnight and joy be with you all. Of all the co mrades ere I had And all the sweet hearts ere I had They wish me one more day to stay.
51 But since it falls Unto my lot That I should go and you should not, Goodnight and joy be with you all. Figure 5 : King and Queen a piper who have by their skill and wind given the very breath a might y voice, let us give them our thanks! Hip
52 We begin to disperse into the sea of mini vans and family cars, but not before the Jacky Tappet who this year is playing the French Dauphin for one last word. h is voice transform s as all the performers join him in their best American drawls. dialect free zone! O kay One more laugh and the crowd begins its lon g trek through the cars back into the world as we know it. Come Play with Me: Invitations to Participate The participatory pleasures of playing along, particularly of singing along, invite communitas By the end of the day I fin d myself wondering how I have moved from initial moments of nervous, tentative attempts at joining the play VanOosting (1987) describe audience participation in performance con texts along a continuum of activity levels listing four characteristic types of audiences. These participatory levels inform a deeper understanding of how Festival invites its visitors into the magic circle. According to Pelias and VanOosting audiences may be: 1. Inactive Receivers like traditional attendees of film, theater, or solemn ceremonies.
53 2. Active Respondants who are invited to participate by responding to cues from stage. 3. Interactive Coproducers where there is an expectation of audience reciprocity in the production of impromptu or other non scripted performances. 4. Proactive Producers where the distinction between performer and audience is completely blurred. Festival is a culture of participation that invites visitors to become a part of the comm unity by moving from inactive to proactive audience members. The liminoid experience of this community is possible because of the ways Festival ( 1) calls for incremental performance commitments, ( 2) engages physicality through garb and embodiment, and ( 3) intervenes in the personal space of patrons. Performers, P atrons, and P la y trons : P erformance C ommitments Festival performers divide themselves into three categories: Actors, Crafters, and Gamers. Although Pelias and VanOosting (19 87) have characterized l evels of audience participation rarely do we characterize levels of performance participation We may talk about lead roles, bit parts, ingnues, walk ons, and spear holders, but Festival participants self conceptions of performance roles are important. I n his observations reenactments at Plimouth Plantation, Richard Schechner (1985 99 ) notes: some performers at restored villages have become permanent residents, living off the income of their crafts and eating the food they have cooked that day in the pr esence of visitors. Their lived lives mesh with their performed lives in so
54 strong a way that it feeds back into their performances. Their roles become their ordinary life, supplying their restored behavior with a n ew source of authenticity. When thi s happens the performers are are akin to a shaman or the Brahman priest whose performance comes to be a truer representation of the As audience members are invited deeper into circles of pa rticipation at Festival, they may even move beyond audience as producer into what might be characterized as the shaman of the Faire the role Festival participants consider to be the soul of Ren Fest the Rennie. Actors may be paid stage performers and music proactive producers to insiders. Crafters, too, are often local artisans who have reserved space at Festival just as they might in any other craft venue. But scattered among Ac tors Crafters, and Gamers the Renni es serve as the innermost circle. Luke Cooper describes the Rennie for me: to festival making their living entirely from the Renaissance Festival circuit, and camp ing out in tents or trailers. Even Festival patron s, when they become so engaged in the community that Renaissance begins to stand as a guiding metaphor for their lives, may be referred to as a Rennie. Luke started chasing us out. S
55 These two inner circles of Festival the Rennies at the center of the full time local ca st of actors, crafters, gamers draw in visitors through progressive participation beginning with period conversations at opening gate and move on to positioning a village within a village. These kinds of conversations along with events like the human combat chess match and the joust, where taking sides and cheering a champion are prompted mpossible to attend Festival and be inactive; it would take much more work to avoid participation than to give in. At stage shows throughout the village, and in conversations with lane performers and shoppe keepers, patrons move from active respondents to interactive coproducers. Interaction with the performers is marked by confusion: performers act confused when they hear contemporary speech and jargon, or modern place names and descriptions of technology. Their feigned confusions demand that I either give up and play the game, or continue to try to force them to understand my world. In any case, I am at their mercy, as this conversation illustrates: King: Ah, good my Lord! I see thou hast a mechanical sundial! Me: A what? King: Many visitors in the village today have one of those lovely bracelets as thou art wearing. Matt: Ah, a watch. King: Watch what?
56 Matt: I beg your pardon, Your Majesty. We call it a watch. King: And dost thou watch it? Matt: Only Monday through Friday. King: Ah! Thou hast made a joke! Here, let me tell thee a riddle! The king goes on to lead the conversation until I am participating in a game of riddles As with the lane interactions, stage acts require a high level of interactivity. The Washing Well Wenches show, which figures prominently in Chapter Four, involves audience participation both on stage and off. The front five rows are marked off as a no non participants at Finally, patrons who are willing get into the act, put on a costume, create a persona, and act as though they we re part of the cast become what Kim Korol calls Cast members build long term relationships with playtrons who attend regularly. During my second full time season as a cast member, a playtron dressed as a member of court tru
57 ctors at the castle of Sir Moffi t. Your widening. dear La dy has come with exceeding good news to cheer your Queen. Sir Matthew, wilt told later, was known to Caroline first through Festival, and then through the International Wenches Guild. This was her second battle with breast cancer at the Moffi t Cancer Center. me coming back to do these shows. The connection that we get with guests is unlike any Hyoungonn Kim (200 4) notes that a large contingent of Festival participants are involved in what Robert Stebbins calls serious leisure systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer activity that is sufficiently substantial and interestin g for the participant to find a career there in the acquisition and
58 expression of its special skills and knowledge (1992, 3). Although only some Festival attendees are indeed career participants, the community at large is constituted in serious performance wherein actors paid and unpaid make Festival performance the business but it cannot grow without the full engagement of the body. Physical C ommitments: T o G arb, o r N ot to G arb? At the end of my first season observing the Bay Area Festival, I was chided for not yet coming in costume by cast members who had grown familiar with me When I complained that costume pieces at festival were expensive, I was told that most cast members and participants make their own garb. Jacky makes all of his own costumes, intricately pieced together in layer upon layer of detail. Unlike the members of court many of whom have taken up se wing out of economic necessity peasants and villages can put together rudimentary costumes with a homespun look for pennies. Encouraged by this, I was determined to come in costume to the final pub sing that first season. I picked up some dollar per yard p laid fabric from the local big box store and sewed it into one massive sheath that I could pleat into a great
59 kilt. After putting it on the last morning of Festival, I wrote an entry in my journal relating the unexpected feelings I had after my first time * On the floor of my living room I stretch out the four yards of double width plaid wool and smile at the size of it. Its width of five feet covers nearly the whole floor between the television and coffee table, its t welve foot length extending from the couch on one end to the bookshelf against the far wall. The fabric is an earthy green and red pattern, much like the dully dyed woolens a Scot might have worn in the 16 th c entury or before. The garment is the Scottish g reat kilt, or breacan feile which my Scottish ancestors wore for centuries. Bending down over the cloth, I begin to fold narrow pleats into it starting about a foot from the end nearest the couch. Pulling and folding, pulling and folding, I tug the heavy cloth towards me until nearly the entire length is pleated neatly, taking up only a few feet. About one and a half feet of pleats now run the along width of the cloth with a one foot apron on either end. Sliding a belt underne ath the fabric I lie down, back to the pleats and fold the aprons across my front, the bottom edge of the pleats at knee level. I clasp the belt tight around myself to hold the cloth firmly, and as I stand up, the knee length plaid forms the skirt portion of the kilt, while a four foot train of plaid hangs down behind me. Tucking the corners into the belt, I pull the remainder of the tartan over my right shoulder and pin the plaid to my loose linen shirt. As I perform this ritual, I wonder how many generati ons of my ancestors enacted the same day in and day out and what it meant for them.
60 The plaid is a symbol heavily laden with rich cultural meaning for the Scottish the wool wearing Scots and Picts defied the Roman Emperor until he was forced to build his wall along the borders of Northern England. In later years the highland tribes were to imitate the Roman toga in their great kilt, and the woolen tartan, developed first as a utilitarian fabric, became just as much a symbol of prid e and nationalism. The voluminous garment served shepherds and warriors as clothing, blanket, and sometimes tent. So much was it a symbol of its people that after the 1746 Scottish uprising led by Bonny Prince Charlie, England banned the wearing of tartan. Gripping the dull green and red pattern in my fingers I reflect on Michael ways the domains of mind and geog raphy. Pulling pleat over pleat my mind races back throug h time and in my own hands I see the hands of my fathers before me, folding the same thick wool in order to dress for a day of work in the fields. Belting it around my middle, and wrapping the cloth around me, I am transported in time and space I pull th e very essence of Scotland around me, and become one with my forebears. I am as they were perhaps not in time or circumstance, but I feel their blood coursing through my veins and I know that they are there, stretchi ng out in a long line behind me making me who I am. A s I prepare to step into this other world for a day, I recognize it is a world of fantasy and leisure where others are dressed in historical garb that serves to transport them, if not to another time and place, then into a community that give s them the same sort of feeling. The costumes are all different For some it is period garb connecting them to their imagined past. For others it is pagan symbols worn on jewelry or in tattoos. For
61 yet others it might be some raiment out of fantasy or e ven the everyday wear of their alternative Whatever uniqueness or sense of authenticity or escape the garb gives them, it unites them in some way with the community of Festival. Commiting t o T ouch: A m I in Y our S pace? The first performance aim of Festival is to promote performer commitments. Its persuasive culture of participation, along with its calls for garbed embodiment, brings patrons progressively closer to the rformative world. But the bodily experience of Festival goes beyond garb to allow participants a multi layered somatic experience. There is a the wafting smell of anac hronistic delicacies, and beyond the shuffle and bustle of the W e touch our act. We physically touch our actors. We go out and put sunscreen on our actors. We put it on them, and like, rub our face s against them. We smear plicate that anywhere else participatory hurdle. Indeed, Herbert Blau (1985) argues that two concepts ground live performance: implied consent (we agree to be here toge ther as audience and performers)
62 and the potential for reciprocal touch (the possibility of touching each other is always present). (Pelias 1998, 16) into self and other. Body knowledge or, as Leland Roloff (1973, 3) calls central to the culture of Festival. In its invitations to perform, to garb, to touch, Festival begs its inhabitants to commit to its ground of play. By Means of Production: Performing Material Culture If the first performance aim of F estival is the invitation to performance commitments, the second is the celebratory consumption of handcrafted material culture. Richard Baum Products of acts of poiesi he object, like the performed story, is t he membrane across which performers/artists and audiences encounter and imagine one another, whether from opposite sides of the proscenium or opposite sides of a trading post or gallery counter. (2006, 152) Among the many tactile performances at Festival a re the productions of handcrafted wares on site. The production of material culture becomes a performance that connects in meaningful ways the crafter, crafted, and consumer.
63 Consumption plays an important role in Festival culture. Food, crafts, games, to ys, costumes pieces, artwork, and not least of all performances are the commodities of to animate the objections of their creation through story (Hamera 2006, 156). Artisans such as Luke Cooper demonstrate their gifts and create living artifacts which patrons peruse and playtrons consume with love and devotion. Rennie crafters and playtrons value the of produced fare of contemporary consumer culture. Frank Henkel a crafter of artistic and architectural casts and statues, describes a mystical connection to his mater ials and his product s s. There is irony, perhaps, in the fact that Frank historical artifacts; he nonetheless decries the loss of hand work in the modern world. Lamenting the fact that fewer and fewer people seem to value what goes into handcraft because they think a machine can make it better, he describes the lifetime journey of learning that has gone into his work, each piece touched by human hands. Frank recounts a story from his early life as a woodworker that shaped his deep desire to embody the process of creation through touch. Traveling to India in his twentie s with a friend and fellow wood worker, he opened a production shop making teak furniture for import to the United States.
64 want Frank the work Frank represents what is important to him about his village persona. He is a craftsman, and bring displayed as talismans, tethering to a past with deeper and richer meaning. Luke Cooper too, describes the important place of handcraft as Festival, though he notes th at a more commercialized, less serious crowd has diluted that impulse to a degree. His glass blowing show and the display of his wares is the largest craft area in Puddleton and attracts a high volume of guests who enter the festival grounds and immediate ly gather around the roaring furnace and the impressive display of multicolored vessels. Arrayed under his canopy are dozens of vibrantly colored glasses, mugs, vases, pitchers, and bowls priced from $45 $300. One end of the display is lined with bodice ch illers small glass cones that can be filled with ice water and slid down the bodice to rest between the breasts and cool the torso. They are extremely popular among performers and playtrons, both because they provide a welcome relief from the regular
65 heat, and because they draw the gaze of passersby. Next to the bodice chillers are a dozen or so shockingly large phalluses for around $100 per penis. Luke confesses, acknowledging that even among serious patrons playtrons seek after and cherish his more distinctive pieces, and he is revered among the cast and other crafters. I have asked Luke for a glass mug, in blue and white. Rolling a glob of glass on the en d of his blow pipe, caressing it with a wad of wet paper as steam rises up, he describes the work of a nother crafter named Blaine whose shoppe is just across the lane from Luke Blaine makes beautiful handmade furniture, and he makes wooden swords and s hields. You can look in there and see him, kinda looking over the wood, trying to figure out which wood can be turned into a sword and which can be turned into a the same wit h me. I look into the furnace and I see the glass and I understand the material. He understands his material, too. He just does something different with his material than I do with mine. Craftsmanship is an odd thing because it does become something that y ou merge with the material. You merge it with a medium. As he blows into the pipe, the glob of glass on the end inflates. He shapes it into long cylinder with his wad of moist paper, touching and feeling it into existence.
66 Fra nk Luke and Frank is performance that not only produce s the thing c reated, but also constitutes the creator in the act of the making. Luke his love of the thing touched while demonstrating the act of bringing it into existence. In both instances, performer and aud ience personalize consumption by physically engaging objects of desire. The mutualilty of touch brings both crafter and consumer into a relationship in and with objects as performances that have become material components of celebration (V. Turner 1982a). I Need a Renaissance: A Mythological Community of Difference Festival is a participatory community; it is a somatic community; but Festival is, most importantly, a mythological community. A final performance aim of Festival is to give the community a sem antic foothold in its fairytale setting, a mythohistorical Renaissance. Luke Cooper describes Festival as a magnet for individuals seeking either confirmation of their difference and independence or a space for remaking themelves. His own story of crossing the threshold into the Festival community is one of new beginnings. Before Ren Fest, Luke was a master glass blower who had devoted 17 years of his life to developing his art. But then, just as Luke had begun promoting artistic pieces that were selling at art shows for thousands of dollars, the owner of the operation where Luke worked was convicted of fraud and embezzlement. As a result of being laid
67 off, and then sustaining an injury from which it took Luke six months to recover, he lost everything. ined Renaissance literally because of the name. I saw it as an opportunity to rebirth, to begin again I Luke, came to Festival looking for a Renaissance. rom somet Something happened in their hometown or they were the guy that got pushed out of the social scene, a part of their own social situation in the home tow n where they grew up. So they leave. You know : freaks that comes into your town, and picks up all the little freaks and then we take them away. I need a Renaissance That symboli circle Luke (1998, 304) s some of us now base our careers on our work with the so called monster s freaks, or I too, like Luke came to Festival needing a Renaissance. Like Bowman, I study performance because those freaks allow me more ably to critique culture. I study Festival because it is a freakishly interesting nexus of history, fantasy, and mythology through which performance makes community and identity. Walking around the lanes, I see a handy
68 assortment of history buffs, bedecked in p Figure 6 : Playtrons in Fantasy Garb But more notably, perhaps out of contrast, I see sundry snippets of alternative culture: there are bikers dressed in V iking helmets, goth kids with white faces and bat wings, and a wide pastiche of fantasy figures. Perhaps I come to this study with such fascination for the same reason Daphne sneaked through that fence. Because I secretly
69 know that I too was one of the fre aks. I was that kid: the one with the obsession for fantasy because it obscured my own social awkwardness. When I attended my first Medieval Festival at 14 years old, I was the smart kid, the fat kid, the dra ma kid with horn rimmed glasses, the sexually fr ustrated kid who wanted a mythology of manhood that explained my own notions of a masculine self. I played Dungeons and Dragons I dreamed of heroism, and loved the idea of being transformed into a knight in shining armor. There is indeed magic and power in a community that gives it s members a sense of place, a sense of connection, and a sense of identity that seems special and unique to each of them, but that is mythologically rooted in time and space. If we are indeed ontends, that dream certainly plays itself out in the Middle Ages from capitalis m to nationalism to classism which find fruition in the modern age. Defining the Middle Ages as the infancy of all that we have become, Eco mental portraits of our dreams. Among them, Eco says the medieval can be e xperienced as: 1. 2. a barbaric age of fantasy which allows us to celebrate virility and brute force 3. an escape into Romanticism 4. philosophical justification for religious dogma 5. a philoso phical justification for rationalism and/or religious dogma
70 6. a celebration of Nationalist identities 7. a platform to explore lost esoteric knowledge explore s the backdrop of barbaric fantasy against which alternative mythologies of play ground is used to celebrate national h eritage invites the active participation of Dunedin, a nearby community with deep Caledonian roots. The village is peopled by Christians and pagans and, surprisingly, even becomes a site enabling religio us dialogue. an easy observation to make as you peruse alongside the armories and period clothing booths sporting crystals, wands, books of magick and prophecy, jewelry and leatherwork adorned with pagan s ymbols drawn from Celtic and Nordic mythologies. Tony Breeden, a long time ge leanings in his August 2008 W eblog: There are a few distinct groups who go to Ren Fairs: performers and merchants, Goths, metalheads, medi eval history/period buffs, gamers, Wiccans, fortune tellers, occultists, pagans and guys and gals who belong at ElfCon Breedan calls for more positive representations of Christians at Festival, like members of Renaissance Ministries and The Noble Order o f Chivalry groups whose members attend the Bay Area Renaissance Festival and other Florida Faires in order to reach out to the community as Christians. But as Adan a Rennie who describes himself as a Celtic
71 Reconstructionist, and has taken on the Festival persona of an Irish Moor explains to mythology: There were lots of pagans who lived during the Middle Ages. Some people call living along beside Festival is not historical; but it is mythical both in the way it conceives its conflations of medeivalistic fanstasy and historical recreationism, and in the ways i t uses those conflations to enable the production of self in community. The most intriguing aspects of Festival are in the ways that it accommodates historical truist and fantasy buff, Christian imaginings of holy knighthood and Celtic paganism, or contest ations of masculine and feminine. In the necessity of that performative accommodation, the mythology of Renaissance Festival allows it to become what Maurice Friedman (1992, 229) describes as a genuine community or a community of otherness in which openhea spoken in performance. As mutual producers of the community, Rennie, performer, and playtron play together and constitute a world wherein all voices have a say in how the game plays out.
72 Community: The Serious Work of Play at a Day at the Faire As a community constituted in reflexive and playful performance, and bounded in spaces marked off th rough play and communitas, Festival draws performers and patrons into its communal center through several means. As I myself have been drawn into the me to understand the k inhabitants Rennies, Actors, Crafters, Patrons and Playtrons. Those commitments engage the body, in garb and in the surrender of personal space so that the celebration of Festival is experienced somatica lly. The relationships patrons and playtrons build with Crafters such as Luke and Frank engage the body in material celebration. A commitment to his own personal renaissance illustrates, Festival enjoins its performers to celebrate difference and a diversit y that is enabled in and by the mythological community. in allowing members of a community to come together and reflect on what they believe, what they desire, what they have done Festival, a community constituted in and by performance, is its invitations to participate, its somatic production of culture, and its mythology of rebirth. Most importan tly, Festival performance s give the community permission to play. As Susanna Millar points out, the most distinctive characteristic of playfulness is (1968, 21). Performative play can detach experiences from their contexts of
73 o rigin and create frames that promote unconstrained thinking and new contexts in which they can move and engage new communit ies David Boje (2005) describes Renaissance Festival as a communal celebration of a reverence f or another time and place. As an ou tgrowth of the celebration, it is enabled by play, self reflection, social commentary /critique and pleasure. The playfulness of Festival is an inscription of its dare to be different ethic. It is, as Huizinga outlined, a voluntary step out of ordinary lif e, bounded by time and space which, though purposefully producing nothing but the processes and objects of its play serendipitously makes community. The secrets of the community are communicated to the world outside the Festival walls as carloads of costu med participants flood the roads and restaurants afterwards. After closing gate, half costumed performers fill the village outside the village, welcoming the gawking stares of onlookers. The freaks have escaped. The world will never be the same. Festival s boundaries enable creative play that has the potential to powerfully secrets of the game allow members of the community to be part of a social group that privileges o struggle to appear is perhaps most profound in regards to performances of gender. This chapter has illustrated the means by which the community engages individual performers in ref lexivity, play, and communitas. Chapters Three and Four explore in detail the performances of gender that are enabled by such a community.
74 CHAPTER THREE OF KNIGHTS, ROGUES, POETS AND KINGS: EMBODIMENT AND MYTH IN MASCULINE PLAY Sitting tall and straig ht on his Belgian warhorse, the stately gentlemen with long gray moustaches heralded the entrance of tw o armored knights. He wore buck skin lined red tartan trews (the traditional trousers of Scottish riders), a billowing saffron shirt, and spoke with a spo t on Scottish accent. The Herald galloped to and fro, his deep baritone voice booming through speakers hidden by ornate coats of platform. He urged one side to cheer for the evil Red Knight, the other for the noble Blue Knight. The armored men tilted time and again until, struck in the chest, the Blue Knight fell from his massive Clydesdale. The Red Knight leapt from his stallion to kick the fallen warrior before stomping on the helmet of the unarmed man. The blue side jeered an d booed, while the red danced and hooted. When I was fourteen years old, my first Renaissance Festival found me running first to the jousting field. The embattled knights most aptly captured my boyish film, with stick legendarium and in a dozen incarnations of King Arthur I was enamored then with the myths of nobility and chivalry. But sitting now with my four year old son some 20 years
75 after that first immersion into fantasy, the violence inherent in displays of hegemonic masculinity comes strikingly to the forefront. Figure 7 : Two Jousters Tilting The Scottish Herald is the same. His moustaches and flowing hair (now white rather than gray) and his rearing horse make him seem a figure out of legend. But for all its theatrical nods to the pomp and dignity of chivalry, the gratuitous nature of the display is belied in the cheers of the bread and circus es crowd. Waving half eaten turkey legs, the Red side jeers and stomps, noticeably more indulgent in its celebrations than the Blue. Several patrons wear black t Red Knight cheats his way to victo ry, as he hacks and stomps on the Blue Knight, even my four year the Red side. My son looks confused. e
76 As if to underscore his observation, a large hairy man to our right screams out, Festival and the Reconstitu tion(s) of Gender This chapter focuses on performances of masculinity, while Chapter Four considers Festival and feminism. Conventional representations of masculinity at Festival are numerous, but as Judith Halberstam observes, these ar e perhaps the least interesting of the many variants of masculine expression. As in her work on female masculinities, Alternative masculine performances are informative about gender relations because, in their subversion of masculine norms they make the norms more visible (like the ways in which breaking and unspoken rule demonstrates the existence of the rule). Conventi onal masculinities will serve s econd as the backdrop against which alternative myths and physicalities are embodied. T his chapter argues that masculinities at Festival are reconstitut ed significantly in a diversity of ways. As representatives of some of the ways in which alternative masculinities are embodied in performance at Festival, five performers serve as exemplars in this chapter. Brandon is a regular member of court and the Master at Arms who tr ains performers in combat. Brandon portrait of a performer consciously upholding heteronormativity, but whose initial experiences of community Tegan is an openly gay man
77 who plays a fop. Te ga a discours e on gender performance as a purposeful transgression of masculinity. Jaryd is a self identifying heterosexual who, at the time of my fieldwork, was in a romantic relationship with performance personas function within the framework of hetero normative masculinity but his backstage relationships with the community at large illustrate the complexities of narrati identity Ken and Johnny are Evangelical Christian platrons who se experience of Festival is grounded in the mythopoetic m All these performances, drawn from the mythic stock of the Middle Ages, provide a rich landscape for understanding the diversity of ways in whi ch masculinity is enacted, contested, and turn ed on its head by the Festival c ommunity and the individuals who comprise it. Hegemonic Masculinity R. W. Conne l Masculinities (1995) is a foundational work in the field of gender studies. In it Connell details the concept of hegemonic masculinity, a cultural set of normative masculine expressions at which men are strongly encouraged, both implicitly and explicitly, to aim. The aggressiveness, strength and drive of these socially endorsed masculinities p romote hierarchy, the domination of some men by others, and the subordination of women. These masculine expressions, however, are but a set of choices among other less regarded notions of gender. Connell argues that our experiences of
78 gender can best be un derstood not in terms of sexual roles or sexual identities, but with a view towards social processes and interpersonal practices governed by the large scale structure of gender (Connell 1995, 150). Alt hough Connell does not seem to advocate a performance frame for the study of gender, she does note that a dramaturgical metaphor is an apt means of approaching studies of gender performances if they include : 1. W ell defined scripts to perform. 2. C lear audiences for the performance. 3. S takes that are not too high. Figure 8: Human Combat Chess Although Connell argues that none of these rules normally apply to gender relations (1995, 26), Judith Butler (1988) taking on a broader definition of performance argues that our conceptions of gender are in fact constituted i n performance. Like Connell, Butler (2004) rejects a foundational binary conception of gender arguing instead that
79 on the constraints of gender experience, observing i n particular the negative weight of hegemonic masculinity in the gendering process. As outlined in Chapter Two, a number of performance types constitute the Festival community, from large spectacles like the Joust or Human Combat Chess, ritual displays, s treet bits inviting participation, the material performances of vendors, to interpersonal performances of the everyday. In all of these cases an important aspect of the performance constructions is the display of gender. Kings and Queens, Lords and Ladies Rogues and Wenches are all divided into the binary of appropriate gender performances. Festival is a great playground for experimenting with the fairy tale roles of men and women. More often than I can recount, when Festival Platrons are asked why they r eturn in costume to participate in the community time and again, why they buy season passes and even hold weddings or other significant celebrations at Festival, they wom more easily in pop culture than anywhere in history. Through performance that fant asy is made reality. Ren Fest is a stage on which conventional performances of masculinity provide a backdrop against which alternative masculinities emerge. These alternative performances enable performers to rehearse versions of themselves that would not otherwise be rewarded. As Judith Butler (1988) argues, under everyday circumstances the whereas
80 correct possi bilities by rewarding alternative play in ways that are personally transformative. The Moment of Engagement: Hegemonic Masculinities and Embodiment In observing the process of masculinization common to Western men, Connell describes the moment of engageme nt competi veness, a career focus that neglect s relationships, suppression of emotions, and the ethic of reciprocal violence, she says, are among the choices that go along with this engagement. The ethic of reciprocal violence and violent sport as competition are written like leitmotifs into the fabric of Festival. The two most popular shows at all of the Festivals I have att ended are the Joust and Human Co mbat Chess (in which armed players battle for I recall vividly the first chess match I observed. At the dramatic height of the match and as the village mayor was held at knifepoin t, a patron shouted into the dramatic Yeah! Slap him like hough there are many alternatives to it at Festival, these moments of engagement with the conventionally masculine ar e ever present. I encountered such a moment in my introductory audition for a role. I first met Brandon during my initial audition for the cast of the Tampa Bay a six week Ren Faire. I had been attending and observing Festivals for two years, traveli ng to other venues in the state to speak with patrons and local performers as well as full time
81 Rennies and Festival organizers. But my research began in earnest when I auditioned to became a cast member at Puddleton, the village setting of the Bay Area Fe stival. The audition consisted of an improvisational scene with the Queen (a seasoned professional this particular festival, playing roles from Captain of the Guards to Athos of the Three throws and sword forms in order for Brandon to ascertain our combat abiliti es for the chess match and brawls in the lanes. Having had half a dozen years of martial arts training, I performed the moves with precision and what I considered a degree of skill. Spying me from the corner of his eye while working with other performers doing gonna kill anybody that way! Here, let me show you. The moves have to be big, and he theatrical needs of stage combat as well as the safety of other participants in a choreographed fight. But he went on to deride my attempts by imitating them in mock fashion with high pitched grunts to illustrate to all the other performers that my perf ormance, what Brandon considered a weak feminized showing was not acceptable. Internally, I grumbled at the irony in this criticism. My quick precision and force was learned in training to accomplish the most deadly assault in real life, rather than the l arge broadcasting movements of stage combat
82 With a hint of sullenness (I was after all one upped), I considered the possibility that I Later, I learned that Brandon is a me mber of The International Brotherhood of Rogues, Scoundrels, and Cads a broad organization of Festival men with its counterpart in the International Wenches Guild. Although the Wenches are a well devel oped and powerful cross Faire organization that self regulates the community of women at Festival, the Rogues Guild by contrast functions primarily to promote sophomoric masculinity. On its official website, the IBRSC describes its purpose as follows: In a triumphant testament to testosterone, the IBRSC has been established to provide a union for those blokes who consistently dwell in that gray area between chivalry and misogyny. If your idea of a good time is risking life and limb to defend a maiden's hono r (as long as the possibility of profit or nookie is in the bargain), then you're our kind of guy. The site goes on to list its role models, among them: Han Solo, James T. Kirk, Duncan McLeod of Highlander D'Artagnan. To help visitors ascertain if they are Rogues material, the site provides some simple tongue in cheek questions: Do you carry a bigger knife than the persons trying to mug you? Do you know the name of every Alewench & Rosegirl at a Faire? (and their natural hair color?)
83 Does your belt feel uncomfortable without pouches & weapons hanging from it? Do you have a tankard in your car at all times, just in case? Do you wond er what every woman you meet would look like in a bodice? Have you been known to elicit world weary sighs from wenches at 50 paces? Can you generate the emotions of lust and hate in the same woman at the same time? Have you ever played "Drench A Wench" wit h a slingshot & a wet sponge? Is that a sword, or are you just happy to be here? Or both? The questions go on, but these illustrate the flavor of the organization. T he emphasis on wild living and womanizing, prowess and weaponry all reflect a conventionall y popular masculinity that illustrates by exaggeration the hegemonic model. Despite my initial frustration with Brandon, I later found him to be an affable fellow who knew his craft well and got along with other cast members. My first impression and my ow n defensiveness serve to illustrate how the norm of a worldly, conventional masculinity is indeed a large part of Festival culture. However, t he larger expressions of gender. Brandon is an example of this nuance. His performance experiences lean heavily towards the embattled wa rrior. In addition to choreographing Ren Faires, he organizes performing troupes for historical recreations of medieval swordplay and Civil War battle reenactments For the release of blockbuster epics like the
84 Lord of the Rings t rilogy the members of a re employed to attend film openings dressed as fantasy characters to help create atmosphere. L ittle dialogue occurs in the spectacles Brandon creates but they all include much physical interaction. His characters seem in this respect akin to what Michael Messn er (1995) calls the tribalized serves only to make men more disconnected. Despit term intimate friendships at Festival with both men and women. As Moller argues, significant connections can be and are created by men who perform conventional, athleticized masculi nity even in the face of hierarchy and competition. Fraternal bonds exist among members of the Rogues, and long term supportive relationships between critiques of hegemoni c masculinity. Nonetheless for Brandon, experimenting with alternative embodiments enabled him to development significant new relationships and impacted his conception of the heroic. Bodies as Objects and Agents Connell envisions numerous remakings of masculinity, all of which are difficult although she sees that new terrain as
85 one in which collective practice addresses the structural issues which enable negative masculinities, she suggests that one aspect of the process must address the physical ways in which masculinity is embodied. Re embo diment she says, must be a search for embodiment has been explored in great detail from the world of sport (Donaldson 1993; Light and Kirk 2000; Messner and Sabo 1990, 1994 ; Messner 1992, 2002, 2007; Wedgewood 2003) and college drinking (Peralta 2007) to Gordon 1995, Robertson 2007) and transexualism (Rubin 2003). In rethinking the theoretical groundwork of hegemonic masculinity, Connell and J Kirshenblatt ees bodies as both objects and agents (2002); but whereas the body might be envisioned as an object through which cultural knowledge and ways of being are merely reproduced, a performance frame privileges the agency of the performing body to a much greater the action of bodies) is balanced forcefully by what I will term body reflexive practice Embodiment becomes for the performer not only a way of knowing, but also a way of being and ultimately a way of becoming.
86 Masculine bodies abound at Festival. They stride about clothed in swords and armor, decked in broad Tudor tufts or sleek Elizabethan breeches and codpieces. Lithe or blocky, the men p erform their roles for the most part with fairy tale poise and stature. From the athleticism of the combat arena to the graceful nobility of courtly etiquette, the man suit is one of power and control. Brandon enacts this prowess in every line of his statu re. His look is dangerous and his facial expressions are stern. In contrast, the flamboyant vanity of the male nobility might be seen as a criti masculine body, but the vanity and brocade serve as signs of economic power thus serving the sa me purpose and only thinly masking the danger hidden beneath them. The nobles wield knives and swords just as readily as their fighting servants. For nearly a of danger. Brandon grew up in a working class family. He played football and baseball in high school. Like me, his particular brand of Saturday morning mythology consisted mainly of Dungeons and Dragons or the like, as did his after school gaming culture. An avid pl ayer of fighter video games, Brandon and his friends spend any extra spare time rehearsing for battle performances. When asked about the sheer volume of violence in his favorite past
87 Women like guys with power and strength. And eyebrows. As a classic example of the masculine ethics of violence, dominance by strength, and one upmanship, I was surprised when in my sec ond year of performing Puddleton Brandon requested to play a new kind of role: whose story will be detailed more in the next section, had decided to make the move from ember of the court. Tegan is openly gay and revels admittedly in garish flamboyance. I had never noticed Brandon keeping company with him outside of necessary interactions, and I always got the impression that brash effeminacy. As stage manager Tegan would, in fact, purposefully turn up what he call s and the rest of the guard were around, just to make the point that their flavor of masculine was not the mainstay of Festival cultu re. Although the role was quite a departure for Brandon, over the course of six weeks of rehearsal he and Tegan came to work well together. As fops, Brandon and Tegan performed together in the lanes, and by the second weekend of the performances,
88 Brandon Their fop personas, which provided comic relief in Restoration comedies, tend to underscore the power of heteronormative masculinity by contrast. And although they might be read as character s who intimate homosexuality (Franceschina 1997), such intimations serve to highlight its statusless position in the society of the time. the kind of role he played at Festival brought a good deal of negative pressure from som e obvious distaste and with threats, to which they most often responded with ludeness. I heard Brandon once improvise his nails and fluffing his cravat, Tegan oogled her, finally offering both hands to be tied. Sur ely not all your pirates are so The bit was tempered or changed altogether when children were present, but adult the green ro om, her tone was hardly more approving. I Talking to Brandon about it later, he offered me
89 macho men all the time. Maybe Admittedly, the role was difficult for Brandon; however, he acknowledged that it was not only an opportunity to build a relationship but also a means of stretching his performance abilities. At the end of the season, I asked again how the role affected him. Figure 9 : Festival Fops Photos courtesy of Cynthia Porter Photography always thought I was a pretty tol erant person, but now I notice how people sometimes added that because of the role his confidence had grown. He has begun to care less what others (even his closest fri ends) think about him. That is not to say that Brandon is giving
90 up battle reenactments and stages combats or that the associations with those friends are any less important. He expresses a close bond with the reenactors and his troupe of performance warr iors many of whom have developed a more open and jovial Brandon stepped, literally, into a different pair of shoes. He traded his rugged riding boots for a pair of satin slippers. His stiffened spine and dangerous grace gave way to flourishes and raised pinkies. His stern face and wrinkled forehead made way for winks and rouge. The time Brandon spent with Tegan and their ensuing association certainly influenced their relationship. M ore than that, spending shoes created a means of understanding that transformed not only the relationship but also The Moment of Engagement: Hegemonic Masculinities and the Myth ic Hero Whether or not this is true ultimate aim is the degendering and recomposing of masculinities, a project f raught with the complications one might expect where gender rules and roles are enmeshed in a larger social fabric. And while it might not be said that his masculinity outside the lane performances has playing the fop, and his subsequent relationship bridge with Tegan, allowed him to experience a broadening of emotional ranges which obviously a
91 endition of Alexander the Great. He was reasoning ve to be secure in your manhood. Moving from heteronormative masculinity into the role of the fop provided Brandon with a bridge to alternate ways of understanding his own masculinity and actually broadened his security in his own heterosexual identity. B ut whereas the fop role served for Brandon as satirical commentary on his own experience of the masculine, for Tegan the fop was simply a means to get his own personality on the stage. former for the rogues and scoundrels for years, wondering how he might someday land a role. me wrong. I love the bad boys t he Rogues Guild and I love the costumes of the nobles. But the men in the court are all just so s tiff, and the bad boys are just, well manly
92 The Fool and the Fop his fop role is much more consciously related to his gender hegemonic role. He declares openly his desire to provide an alternative to the rogues and rascals who populate the Festival scene. Connell sp eaks of the moment of separation from hegemonic masculinity as choosing passivity. The renunciation and denial of conventional masculinity may provide renunciation of an d denial of the conventional, it is in no way passive. Describing his background as an average, white collar, middle class experience, Tegan was drawn to theater from the beginning: I think there are more gays in the arts than in any other industry becaus e we learn early on to perform. First you perform to hide, and so you get really good at are, ay I asked Tegan if he thought the flamboy ance of his role was self parodying and the very thing it was meant to critique.
93 You know I heard that same kind of question asked to Harvey Fierstein in The Celluloid Closet the fops let me be that, and show people that that is basically ok ay Tega n recounts one of his favorite moments at festival tw o years before he became a cast member. One of the more popular traveling troupes on the circuit is a three man group called The Tortuga Twins. Their shows consist of sword play and stage tricks, along w ith bawdy story telling using audience members as the characters who enact the narrations. Hailing from the Tampa Bay a rea originally, the Tortuga Twins are a local favorite, not upe puts on Festival guide; the Beer Show is rated R. It is called the Beer Show because each time a performer makes a mistake, he must drink a mug of beer before continui ng. The alcohol compounds the likelihood of mistakes and thus more drinks, and the sloshed performers generally end up crossing the bounds of decency. I watched and recorded the performance that Tegan recounts as his favorite. He was called out of the crowd t I went to both of the R rated shows during the closing weekend and brought along some other friends who ha ve never seen the show I just love the Beer Show! The Tortuga Twins are always in great form: drinking one beer after another and
94 forgetting lines. Jef f is constant ly cracking up because of all the screw ups, and the man kissing ly one part of the show, but no matter the story used for the framework (Robin Hood, Goldilocks, even Christmas themed shows), one can always expect to see the Tortugas stripped to the waist while a man from the audience is cast (usually to his embarrassme nt) in the role of a woman who ultimately must kiss one of the Twins as part of the story. Figure 10 : The Tortuga Twins Tegan volunteered with no embarrassment, and went well beyond the intended kiss. Normally in the position of control, the twins were unable to contain their laughte r and shock as Tegan took advantage of every innuendo. What normally created laughs
95 of the professional performers who were pawed, groped, and fondled by their would be vic tim of humor. Tegan relished the victory: They were ready for it, but it was great though. They just went with it, and we talked for a long time afterwards. I thought it was great to turn those boys on their heads and just watch the red faces blossom. They sure drank more that show than Performance and Orientation: Opening the Field Mike Donaldson (1993) argues that gayness, in and of itself, is not counter hegemonic. On the one hand, much of conventional masculinity is r eiterated and amplified in a hyper rved by gemonic male and identity rather than as an embodied practice. Connell privileges agency and practice over biolo homosexuality, like adult heterosexual ity, is a closure of this field (1995, 149). In other words, gendered sexual desires become closed at some point for young people on the
96 basis of experienced relationships. ( 1995, 149). Self definitions of sexual orientation follow this closure of sexual desire. A nd although Connell observes those closures occurring most often in early adulthood, Festival constitutes an opening of the field even into adulthood. For Brandon and Tegan, sexual orientation is a closed field. But for Jaryd, a self relationship has been with Tegan. After my first good deal of revelry, awards, and entertainment. The bawdiness of Festival was multiplied, and self referential humor abounded. The evening ended with a take off on a popular comedy routine l isting characteristics that ..your boyfriend wears tights, and you don't shave your legs ...you hear the Tortuga Twins are coming to town and you hide any female children you have or, contrariwise....
97 ...you have at least three escape plans should your parents choose to come betw een you and the Tortuga Twins or any other quality role models ...you've ever had to describe the place you've been living as "The blue tent/RV/camper/car at the end of the second row, by the privies" whom can remember him and her The last two quips, designed as the climax of the routine, elicited knowing glances between Jaryd and at least three female cast members who had obviously shared some similar experiences. Recounting his background, Jaryd describes himself as an average student whose primary extracurricular interests were gaming and theater. He split time between divorced parents, and considered himself romantically shy but theatrically bold. this relationship [ an open atmosphere, this community hey. The popular explanati simply a closeted man, or that he was always bisexual. But he refuses to be defined in that way. He is fighting against what Connell calls the social identity of being gay which med and readily available that it can be imposed on people whether
98 easy for men to experience the process of adopting this social definition as discovering a trut truth about himself. Rather, he sees his relationship with Jaryd as an outgrowth of an intimacy that formed through time. It is an attraction which is specific to a person, and not to a type of person. characters are stock, taken directly from the pages of the IBRSC manual for rogues. Jaryd fights in the chess matches. He most often plays married men w ho go a wenching on the known among the cast. It is not, however, something he shares with co workers at his day job or with his family. the point in it, really? I know who I am. And they know whatever they need to know, right? His resistance to an impulse to define is understandable in reference to reified notions of Jaryd s homosexual desire does not translate to wanting to be a part of gay culture However, i f known beyond the Festival community, his relationship with Tegan would surely
99 contrast is an embrace of the definitions laid upon him. For both of them the power to define and to resist definition lies in the masculine. But perhaps most intriguingly the transformation of gendered desires at least for Jaryd, is accomplished in and through performance. Ja constitute the kind of degendering Connell envisions. But his understanding of his own identity has been impacted by the broader performances made available to him through being a part of the festival community. Althou gh Festival works within and around the framework of much of heteronormative masculinity, Brandon, Tegan, and Jaryd illustrate the ways in which performance broadens field of vision, experience, and identity giving performers agency to self define. Mythop oeia and the Making of Men The issues identified here in regard to performances of masculinity ha ve been the impetus for the rest of my dissertation. It is for me a deeply personal journey into the symbolic performance world which has been so central in c onstituting my own masculi ne ovement inspired by the works of Joseph Campbell, Robert Bly, and other Jungian informed authors. Hero with a Thousand Faces attempts to universa lize the human experience of the heroic through the construction of a common monomyth for the ages, a work that was taken up in the 1970s and 1980 s by Robert Bly in Iron John As a result of their
100 work, thousands of men flocked to deep woods retreats in th e 1980s and 19 90s in order to find themselves, to reconnect with communities of men, and to seek out authentic visions of manhood for themselves through mythic archetypes. They gathered under the trees, beating on drums to connect emotionally over stories of father wounds in the hopes of attaining mystical restoration. looking, self fail in annihilati ng hegemonic mas ythopoets retreat. Despite the urgings of a growing number of Jungian therapists, they descended into obscurity after the mid 1990s. But concurrent with my research at the Bay Area Renaissance Fes tival, I bec at church that drew heavily understanding and creating better experiences of masculinity has much more in common regendering than her writing allows. Ren Men and Man Therapy Early critiques of the m ythopoetic movement describe it as morally permissive. Claiming it did more to describe the way men are than to explain it and do anything about it, Ken Clatterbaugh (1 995) argued that the movement ultimately fails as a means of transforming masculinity because it lacks clear vision, refuses to acknowledge the structural issues that archetypes. He accuses Bly, r ightly so, of justifying some forms of violence against
101 women. Clatterbaugh says of Jungian psychologists Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette (who popularized the archetypal metaphor approach to healing the violent wounds of a that they make onl to move from an critique. In his introduction to King, Warrior, Magician, Lover Gillete (1990, xvii) inherent in patriarchy. For Moore, C. are to be found in heroic archetypes that tempered myth looking, self that reinforces imaginary identities of men. In contrast, Michael Kimmel (1995), although concerns expresses his h opes that the mythopoetic m ovement can become a positively transforming, pro women movement. In qualifying the prospect of a regendered masculinity, Connell warns that abolishing hegemonic masculinity risks losing many of its desirable components, namely : 1. the positive aspects of hero stories, 2. the participatory pleasure of athletics and competition, 3. the abstract beauty of fields of pure reason, and 4. Connell describes these elements of hegemonic masculinity as part of a heritage worth having for boys and girls, men and women. Nonetheless, she argues, the negative expressions of hegemonic masculinity (namely the subordination of women and the
102 powerless, along with a culture of power, domination, an d violence) must be engaged, contested and annihilated by whatever creative actions promote social justice. She notes, 238). Clearly the prospect of overcoming the ne gative aspects of masculine identities odel of social academic modes of discussion. In a recent ree usefulness as a theoretical concept, Connell and Messerschmidt (2005) observe that it has held up well in light of research and criticism in a variety of fields, ranging from education and psychology to violence prevent ion and international relations. They suggest, however, that some of its tenets should be reformulated to provide richer tools for analysis, among them a subtler approach to the complexities of gender hierarchy along with a better understanding of male bod gatherings li addressin g the earlier critiques of the m ythopoetic movem ent as reflected in its mission statement and the i nstitutional stances outlined on its website. Mature masculinity, it outlines, includes:
103 Accountability Authenticity Compassion Generosity Integrity Multicultural Awareness Respect The group further focuses on the values of challenge, empowering support, emotional literacy, breaking competitive cycles, conflict resolution, and acceptance. It takes an institutional stand against abuse, ovement also finds a legacy in Christian which boasts 16,000 eme that runs through both the mythopoet ic m Fraternity founder Robert Lewis and Wild at Heart author John Eldridge. Robert Lewis Raising a Modern Day Knight served as the impetus for our s group. Three fathers aske d Knights to help mentor their sons and participate in weekly gatherings and other rites of passage pointed arguments against the m ythpoetic m ovement is his insistence that the s tories and archetypes that are central to it are inherently harmful. Yet authors like Lewis speak of stripping away the myths of
104 manhood rather than being defined by them, and seeking after genuine transformation serving, destructive, demeaning to women, and focused on power. These are precisely the characteristics of hegemonic masculinity against which Connell rails. Knowing of my involvement in the local Renaissance Festiv al, a few members of our round table decided to go to the Faire. The general bawdiness of Festival proved a disappointment to thi s group of devout Christian men, but the fun of cheering jousters and eating turkey legs, and the spectacle of weaponry and han dcrafted wares satisfied the tourist impulses of most of those who attended For one of the group, Ken, however, one trip to Festival was just a beginning. He and another of our Christian friends, Johnny, decided to attend again in costume Donning kilts o r tunics, we were able to explore the world of Festival more deeply. Ken and Johnny are both 20 something singles from conservative Christian homes. Ken describes his family background as rocky, with a father who is emotionally distant and a mother who is over protective. Attending a private Christian school as a Martial Arts movies, and although h e is a deeply emotional and sensiti ve person, he feels he most often overcompensates with a kind of hyper masculinity as a defense against his self perceived weak nature.
105 Johnny, too, was raised in a conservative Christian home. He began to have homosexual desires at age 12 and defined him self at that time as gay, experiencing It did feel like a discovery at the time. I though romantic and sexual feelings for another boy with my already committed faith. I odus idea that my desires for men are just somehow going to magically go away to stop having those desires a different kind of relationship because of my faith. I have a girlfrie nd and she knows everything about my emotional life and has accepted the challenges of our relation ship counseling together, not in the hopes that this will be fixed but just so we can talk through our lives together. I never thought I could be attracted to a woman, e about the Brandon, Tegan, and Jaryd performed alternative masculinities that opened up for them is the same, although for Johnn y the field was opened towards positive experiences of heterosexuality For both Ken and Johnny embodying masculine mythologies provided agency to experience the positive aspects of heroism and athleticism.
106 Ken, Johnn y, and I made for a sharply dressed trio. Wearing a bronze Tudor tunic with embroidered griffins, my flowing tufted sleeves and lace collar were stifling, but wearing tights and boots rather than pants made for a cooler experience. Ken and Johnny both wore kilts they borrowed from me along with flowing linen shirts that laced up along the chest. Figure 11 : Two Kilted Platrons and a Kilted Performer Ken move us to manh in whom Johnny has confided his story. course, so do some
107 As if on cue, two lady platrons cat called to us from beneath one of the shady oak trees off to one side of the broad lane lined by clapboard and tented shops. They were both dressed in stunningly detailed period dresses with generous hoopski rts and bum rolls and ample bosom showing from their laced bodices. Noticing a curious element of their costuming, Ken asked why there were mirrored attachments on each of their right shoes. confusion on both In answer the ladies descended u pon us, fondling my embroidery and pawing at eyes went wide while they awkwardly and politely struggled to escape. Both Ken and Johnny recount ed in interviews that their experience of Festival was drastically enhanc ed when they decided to attend in costume. It reminded me of my first day as a participant observer when Tegan, then the stage manager, stopped me after morning call to ask how I could possibly get into festival without a costume. Putting on the g arb, I felt tr ans form ed. Both Ken and Johnny expressed the same
108 I never thought wearing a skirt could feel so manly. I kind of fel Johnny noted that he too felt like an object of desire at first, but described it as a freeing experience: I know not man y people know my story, but the people at Festival really know my story It s like I m a blank slate here, and I can be whatever kind of manly man I want to be. There is something really freeing about coming here and being able to play a role that s based on these figures out of fantasy because I ca n be whoever I want putting on those roles isn t the same, because they re predetermined for you relationship with Sheila has really been developing or maybe it s bec ause I can just make myself from scratch but for the first time in my life, I really felt like I could have a desire for women here Not just a desire for one woman, but for women in general. It was like being desired made me want to desire. of the fie ld was a powerful experience for him. Certainly the timing of his relationship with Sheila was an important factor in this. But that relationship developed for him in the nexus of exploring significant myths, embodying those myths in new and meaningful way s, and reflecting upon the ways in which those performed myths empowered his experience of himself.
109 Something Rich and Strange something rich, & because it produces gender vertigo and courts dis i ntegration. It is thus, she argues, reform, because therapy seeks to alleviate the stress involved in restructuring gender orders and conceptions. She makes it clear that th erapeutic approaches to masculinity transformation seem to give men a pass, as it were, on sexual politics and difference. She which she deems unfit as a position from which to adopt social change 235). Reconstituting our conceptions of masculinity is indeed a project rich and strange. The examples I have explored here illustrate the ways in which alternative masculinities slip in and out, around and through, hegemonic masculinities in an attempt to locate the self in performance. Although t disagree with her on more than semantic terms. Performance is liberating, and Festival provides a stage on which personal liberation may be rehearsed. conventional perfor mances of masculinity provided him with deep and long term
110 relationships because of the community in which they were enacted. Yet surprisingly, his own sense of masculinity was made more secure and his relationships were broadened and strengthened by his e mbodiment of the fop with Tegan. Tegan experienced personal liberation in the expression of his own identity through performance. Jaryd experienced a very real and profound transformation of his own sexual identity by means of his participation in the comm unity. Likewise, Johnny found ways to embody a definition of himself that he found liberating and self empowering. In all of these performances, the individuals felt they had gained the power to self define over and against the constraints of conventional masculine performances. This chapter does not deal with large scale structures of power and politics that have an impact on the performative worlds of gender enactment. As part of a larger mythological production, Festival performers embody and transform t he very notions of mythological stage is the means by which it provides participants with a landscape for the enactment of bodies and stories by which and through which t h e performers have been made. It provides for opening fields, for retelling and remaking the stories that make us. Whether for the core of its alternative community, or in the performers and platrons who have expanded that community, or for visitors from ou tside who share the same strange passion for the backdrop of its magical world, Festival provides an important entry point into the conversation regarding masculinities and the symbols which define those masculinities
111 CHAPTER FOUR WENCHES AND QUEENS: MYTH AND THE POWER OF FEMININE FANTASY world I never chose. That my agency is riven with paradox does not mean it is impossible. It means only that paradox is the conditi on of its possibility ith Butler 2004, 3) There is already a lar ge crowd gathered around the Washing W ell, where Daphne and Eureka shout to garner more interest. They are dressed in peasant garb that is wrinkled and wet. Their hair is matted and con torted in pony tails standing on end. Faces At the top of their lungs Show! of a standing room only crowd. The audience is milling out into the lanes obstructing foot traffic and causing passersby to weave around the back of the booths directly facing the wash pit. There ar however, as all of the would be passers get caught up in the
112 already seated are regulars who make a point to see the Washing Well Wenches every weekend Although the crowd now extends far out into the lanes, there are several seats up Eureka turns, and seeing men in kilts, she lolls her tongue at us and undulates her hips in our direction. s though to peek up his kilt. Embarrassed, Ken quickly sits and arranges his kilt for modesty. Daphne caresses his or guidance. Ken has told Fests. Back up on the stage now, both wenches transition into the beginning of the show. After introducing each other, Daphne opens with a brief monologu e: Are you ready for a wench show?! Before we begin, would you like to hear the most frightening words in the English language? Words so terrifying, knights in shining given u p sword and shield never to hear these words again ? Can you handle these words? Okay
113 Daphne and Eureka both begin to roam through the crowd, hopping from bench to bench, which causes audience members to move to allow t hem room to pass. As they move through the group, they improv innuendo. Finally, each of them has picked out a man with a wristwatch, and they look at the time. s houts Daphne. esponds Eureka. either he takes his subsides, Daphne suggests we play a game sinc e we have some time. fingers in groping position. at a The bits continues as they explain that everyone on the right side of the audience should grope to their left, and vice versa, encouraging everyone to slide to the middle to make room for folks in the back. They cheer rhythmically, while actually groping each other to demonstrate.
114 Most of the audience laughs while moving to the center. Others take the game more seriously. Ken and I slide quickly to the center aisle to avoid actually being groped. A largish woman to my left, wearing an extremely low cut bodice looks at me disappointedly. She smells heav ily of beer, and her eyes are beginning to glaze. looks on incredulously, but only momentarily as he notices a problem of his own Eureka is now in the aisle next to him, shouting back at her cousin. bottom in h is face. Looking at me, he shrugs, and then tries to pat her on the back. Grabbing his hand, Eureka wiggles more quickly and rubs his palm on her bottom. The audience roars as he pulls his hand back quickly, and Daphne continues the show. you groped the person next to you all, Festival and Gender Performativity This chapter argues that gender performativity can go beyond ritual production to the enactment of gender as a daily political choice. feminine power, feminist centered narratives of community, and performances that upset
115 notions of masculinity as superior, Festival sets itself up as a model of community that grows out of individual agency The gendered world, argues Judith Butler, is a performance (1988 1993 2004). Rejecting ontological claims to explain binary gender distinctions, she argues, like R W a doing male or doing female, either doing straightness or doing queerness. And although Butler argues that the doing is always with and for others, that the constitution of gender in performance is always prescribed by the constraints of a scene over which p erfo rmers performance. Butler expressly considers the difficult and paradoxical questions of aut onomy. Gendered bodies must navigate the issue of individual agency amongst established social norms and critiques that simultaneously constrain and enable acts of (Butler 2004, 7) In detailing this paradox of autonomy Butle r argues that gender normalization and gender self fashioning can be resolved within the broader process of social transformation, but she does not elaborate on the process of this resolution. She has been criticized for this ambiguity, and for the ways he r theories of autonomy focus on individual agency rather than large scale social change. Nussbaum accuses Butler of a pessimistic and unrealistic denial of the power inherent in social normativity. And although Butler often focuses on individual agency and resistance, Nussbaum describes her analysis as distant from lived experience. Where, she
116 asks, is the power of an autonomy that may only be expressed in the parody o f dominant implicitly with a normative theory of human equality or dignity. But then we have to articulate those norms -V. Bell 2007, 68) Performativity that reiterative power of discourse to produce the phenomena t hat it regulates and constrains 1993, 2 ) It is through such reiterative power argues Butler, that gender is produced. She envisions gender as the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substa nce, of a natural sort of being ( 1990, 44 ) Erving Goffman (1959) referred to these stylizations as prototypes or schemata of perception which become crystallized through reiterated performance. Butler asserts that the enactment of gender prototypes is not a daily choice, but rather that the p erformance is a ritualized production that is reiterat ed under and through constraint (1993, 95) Because it is produced in reference to the constraints of schemata which preceded its constitution, putting on a gendered performance is not like searching th rough a wardrobe for a gender costume of choice for the day. Rather, s ince there is no getting outside the rehearsed and er and Salih 2004, 303) an existential one (Coole 2006) She writes often of constraint, and yet she privileges the possibilities of radical revision stating that t he power of the performative lies in its
117 capacity to rupture (Butler and Salih 2004) Connell emphasizes large scale means of power to cause rupture within and against the larger normative schemata of gender realities. Feminine performances at Ren Fest provide an illustration of just such agency enacted in ritual ways, but also iterated as daily performances choices. Festival is a community that celebrates feminine power and the transgression of the performative gender schemata at play beyond the palisade walls. The women who perform women at festival are making a political stand and constituting a woman centered community that serves to center th em as performers and as women. Three types of women players stand out as models of transgressive performance at Festival. Daphne and Olive provide insight into a larger group known as The International Wenches Guild, which sees the term wench as a badge of honor symbolizing feminine independence and freedom from normative gender expectations. Queen Catherine and her court of Noble Ladies are exemplars of cultural feminism at Festival and actively seek to redefine power in feminist ides an introduction into the butch world of female masculinity (Halberstam 1998) at Festival that attempts to decouple gender altogether. These women are making myths and crafting archetypes from the material of history in a community that privile ges self d efinition.
118 Daphne makes no bones about it: she is a raging, bleeding liberal on a mission to transform the lives of young girls through performance. She and her bevy of performance partners have made a life and a living dressed in wen Washing Well Wenches is one of the most popular and well paid shows on the Festival circuit and has the highest average daily attendan ce at the Bay Area Festival, surpassed women centered shows at Festival, the draw is not beautiful damsels or slinky gypsy dancers; rather, the Wenches make their fame on ugly. Expressing a desire to create role models for women outside contemporary standards of beauty and decorum, Daphne and the Wenches create performances that celebrate difference and upset standards of normative gender expectations. Celebrating Difference D aphne is keenly aware of her agency as a performer. She admits to having a hard time going to movies because of the ways in which film represents women as one dimensional. Men, she opines, are allowed the luxury of being flawed in contemporary media. They she says, whereas women tend to fall into a virgin/whore dichotomy. Daphne sees men in modern performances as wonderfully complicated and emotionally textured because of their tragic flaws that bring the m sympathy. She describes the everyman of film all in a rush:
119 There is little of this kind of misunderstood tragedy for women characters, she argues, and because of that, human sympathies are reserved for male c haracte rs. In contrast females tend to be one dimensional supporting characters contributing to the more human representations of men. She longs for more flawed women characters who are sympath : And there is none of that anywhere. Sometimes we get really excited when little girls come dressed up to our show with some of their teeth blacked out. There is this whole little line of girls who blacked out all their teeth because they wanted hat would you tell women who are tor. the wrong kind of flawed representation of woman.
120 woman having self pity about herself, but almost every movie is about a guy who something weird. And you have to watch there and have sympathy for him hoping that his life will turn out fine. And we trained the audience to look at women that way. To sit there for 40 minutes and watch this loser woman, and hope that she I Figure 12 : Daphne and Lucy Daphne believes that audiences are transforming and have become more ready to see women as humans, that media representations of complex and sympathetic women are
121 expanding. The confused, the flawed, the wrong, the misunderstood, Daphne sees the W ashing Well Wenches as anti heroes. Daphne is not alone in her quest to highlight women who stand against conventional outward not ions of beauty. Festival is teaming with women who want to break those kinds of molds. Looney Luce, a veteran festival performer, is one of the more popular lane acts. She is garbed in tatters and an odd assortment of scarves, beads, kerchiefs, and feather s. Her teeth, too, are blackened with the extra addition of a green something coming from her nose. She can best be described as a combination of a medieval bag lady, a burned out hipster, and the old lady with too many cats. Apart from working the lanes, Lucy plays the bodhran in stage acts for two different Celtic and Ploppy have a blue show at the end of the day. Her bits in the lanes focus on fashion consultation for pat ems from the inherent irony in her criticisms, but her popularity belies an underlying sympathy for the baseness of her carousel in the low, the bodily, and the dirty. It is a celebration of ugly in direct opposition to normative standards of beauty and decorum. It highlights and delights in difference; it revels in sympathetic flaws.
122 Working Wenches Lucy is not one of the Washing Well Wenches, but she is a wench. Tha t name itself is an indication of the ways in which Ren Fest serves as a means to upset scripted gender expectations. The name wench often is used in derogatory ways to refer to women as servants, as promiscuous, or as strumpets. I can remember as an unde rgraduate reminiscent of Renaissance Festival performances were performed on a central dais while whenever we needed service. The young men at my table were delighted with this permission to use such a word not normally available to them in polite company. Yet this is a mon iker that festival women at large have adopted as a symbol of feminine power and community. Olive, one of the Washing Well Wenches, explains to a group of younger girls after one of the Wench shows why the term i s apt for women of the Festival: do y The girls make various guesses: A loose woman? A servant? Olive explains that during the Renaissance a wench was a working woman who supported herself without a husband be a wench you had to be a strong woman, and no man could handle her.
123 As she explains this, Olive points out the large and ornately decorated clothiers booth across the lane from the Washing Well. She uses the owner of the shoppe as an example of a modern day wench. million dollar business based out of L.A. She hires migrant workers, but pays them a living wage. Her shoppe Many of the Rennies, performers and platrons at Festival are members of the International Wenches Guild, an organization that itself began as a local performance troupe at a norther n Festival but later expanded as membership grew not only among performers, but among platrons who wished to join the ranks of strong, independently minded Festival women. Boasting thousands of members across North America, the guild offers this descriptio n of a wench on its website : A wench is not afraid to stand on her own A wench is beautiful, regardless of size, shape or color A wench is unafraid to use body, brains and brawn to get what she wants ve look or dress describes it as an area where sexy wet women lounged and invited patrons to come gawk at them. Crowds would form quickly when the wenches had water and m ud fights. The popularity of the wash pit garnered other performance opportunities at Festivals across the nation, and the Wench show was born. As they began to develop a more structured show, the wenches decided that the images they were portraying were n ot in keeping with
124 more popular. Wench shows sprang up at other festivals, and in 1995 a New York festival performer came up with the idea to create a nation wide performance guild. What essentially began in New York as a local club quickly grew to massive Festival wide community encompassing performers and platrons alike. Upsetting the Male Gaze The countering of normative models of feminine beauty and decorum are not the on ly ruptures of performative norms in Wench performances. The Washing Well show takes as central to its political project the rupture of the male gaze and sets men up as objects of feminine desire. Laura Mulvey (1975) introduced the concept of m ale g aze in cinema theory arguing that in film, the male vision with women as objects of desire constitutes the positive identity of men and denies women human agency. Through a e construction of masculine identities. The interruption of the male gaze is a clear aim of the Wench show as Daphne and the other wenches strive for an ugly look that stands in counterpoint to their open and lascivious gaze. They refuse to be subjectivel y constructed, and claim the pleasure of looking for women. One of the narratives that best illustrates this is their performance of As warm ups to the main narrative segment of the show, the wenches invite participation from several male audience members in brief bits where the male gaze is
125 continuously ruptured in ever increasing ways. They begin by threatening the audience patrons, shimmying with th eir hips and raising eyebrows suggestively. Figure 13 : Daphne Wooing a Male Audience Membe r the delightful, and most importantly Daphne the over wash brush Daphne pounds on her bosom, which has been stuffed with broad, shallow metal your washer, a women
126 Threatenin the audience and make them do tricks in order to earn roses for their women. After the first volunteer finishes his task biting th volunteer, after having been chased by Eureka goes to get his rose. T his time Eurek a holds the stem tight in her teeth and bites it off, putting the rose itself all the way in her him and more gyrations, the volunteer is finally given a real rose. The men at the Wench shows are usually good sports, but their discomfort is palpable. They are not accustomed to being the subjects of a lascivious gaze, nor are they comfortable with even the mock grotesqueness of such mutually overplayed ugliness and se nsuality. Going a displays of affection. The ideals of courtly love, they teach the audience, demand that lovers may not be caught in public touching. our audience! Everyone take your fingers and wave them at the naughty couple over by the tree the man in white and the woman in the blue dress. If you would like a demonstration of what the naughty lovebirds were doing, say As the audience shouts, breasts, crotches, and buttocks, then grab each other and demonstrate quick thrusting movements before leaning back and puffing on imaginary cigarettes.
127 to their main narrative. Beauty and the Beast But the better and more educational story of Handsome and the Beast! Also called, Nice Guys Get Some Too! The narrative gives them the opportunity to turn the cla ssic fairy tale on its head. It does just what Daphne wants to do with stories: making the woman the problematic character, the man a simple object of desire. Along with the jokes h er delusional sense of he r own beauty, the wenches take the opportunity to continue pushing the bounds of female physical power. During the feminine schemata while simultaneously dis rupt ing the masculine gaze. The story is of full of references to masculine inadequacies. The fairy god father who turns Eureka into a male version of Beauty, is perfect in every way except on e: he refuses to do the laundry. The Beast is willing to kiss him at any rate, and u nder threat from Mr. Wetums Handsome allows himself to be kissed in order to earn his way off the stage. of gender possibilities. And the ruptures evident in the performance are constitutive not
128 only of the carnival aspects of Ren Fest, but also constitute femininity in meaningful ways for the community. The ethic of feminine power espoused by creed as expressed on the International Wenches Guild website, actively envisions and promotes problematic but powerful women: We are a group of strong independent women. We are entitled to nothing but complete happiness. We are mothers, daughters, married, single, gay, straight, students, teachers, workers, entrepreneurs, and homemakers. We are proud of our bodies, our minds, and our heart. We carry ourselves with dignity and pride and take responsibil ity for our own actions. We learn from our pasts and shape our future. We are fighters and lovers, nurturers and hunters. W e are ready. We are not perfect. Men as Objects of Desire In addition to overturning the male gaze, the Washing Well Wenches turn m en into participants in feminine pleasure by empowering women to gaze, and by giving the audience permission to laugh at men as objects of desire. Daphne comments on one of her Rennie friends who is extraordinarily fit but who is considered vain by many of his peers top,
129 beautiful. You know women serves the male appetite. So in my opinion, vanity in men serves my appetite. I ap preciate it. In Daph ne s opinion, t centered ethic of performance (E. Bell 1995). The wenches do no t den y desire, but plac e a feminine gaze on equal footing. As with its usage of the historical the Wench Show reaches backward for the cultural material of history to illustrate that th e perceived in equality is a recent development They use the historical song I Never Draw Near sexual freedom while inverting the traditionally masculine role of toucher and observer. Choosing the male from the couple who showed overt affection, the y bring him to the stage as be touching him in public. But g the ideal of courtly love, tripper, you can play there, Toe tripper, love my dear, The more I love him I never draw near.
130 Tha knocker, you can play there, Knee knocker, toe tripper, love my dear, The more I love him I never draw near. Moving from toe to knee, then to thigh, with each verse the wenches touch the male participant in increasingly suggestive ways. When t hey get to his thigh, the song stops for commentary: Daphne: Did you all see the way his legs trembled? Figure 14 : The Washing W ell Wenches Touching Thigh and Breach funny finger to hide her eyes. They banter and make penis size jokes before doing the funny finger
131 this verse, they twist his shirt into points where it covers his nipples, and then when they more rapidly: Touch him on the brea Funny finger, thigh thocker Funny finger, thigh thocker Funny finger, thigh thocker shirt. Ooo, he loved that part! ...knee kn ocker, toe tripper, love my dear, The more I love him I never draw near! The song plays to raucous laughter and applause. It may be a trite and base bit of comedy, but the wenches are engaged in serious play. Victor Turner (1982b, 13) was correct T his inversion of masculine objectification goes beyond explication toward a significant act of claimi ng gender for oneself And although seen first as outgrowths and articulations through and against the very systems that they seek to overturn, these parodies of discourse are not only purposefu l but also efficacious.
132 As parodies they reiterate forms of masculine gaze and objectification, but in reverse. In so doing they serve not simply to buttress the negative aspects of such stylizations, but rather to create something new in the process of negotiating the feminine right to make such claims. The feminine iteration of the male gaze is not object centered, but pleasure centered (E. Bell 1995). In the C hapter Three I described the notion of archetype as it is employe d in ovement, and in the religious/therapeutic that are its descendants. Although there has been some work in the same vein in the exploration of feminine archetypes (Estes 1992, 2000) one of the great criticisms of a mythopoetic approach to gender is its focus on gendered heroes who have sprung from the very system of social understandings that constitute the gendered world that een drawn from the storied world that constitutes them, how then are they useful? If we take to heart the notion that archetypes are made rather than drawn from a well spring of universal human sub consciousness, t hen the answer becomes clear. Pla The Republic was that story tellers should be censored H is concern over the power of the stories we tell is profound. Our stories, and the heroes that inhabit them, tell us who we are or ought to be. The Festival co mmunity makes clear in its narrative who it considers to be the archetypal heroines of its performances. I use the term archetype here, not in the
133 psychological sense that they are universally recognized symbols, but rather that Festival exalts these femin ine heroines as prototypes to be emulated. places The Wench in the central position of prominence. Wenchdom is not only for wenches, but for Queens and noble ladies alike. It is her indomitable spirit, her freedom from normative expectations and control, her unwillingness to be managed, her refusal to bend to standards of beauty and decorum which make her a figure that Festival women desire to emulate The Wench becomes the performative target which female Fest ival participants aim, and the most representative image of their community ethic. The Matriarchal Kingdom In struggling with the problem of agency and autonomy in the face of social constraints that themselves are the platform for Butler concludes there is no position outside the field a critical genealogy of its own legitimating practices ( 1990, 8 ) Even the wench who is independent of others in the making of her social circu mstances exists within the framework of dualistic gender identities and the socioeconomic constraints and realities in which she orders her discursive world. The community of women who constitute the Renaissance Festival scene still live and move in a lar ger social reality in which their narratives are brought to fruition and from which the stock of stories and characters that empower them spring. Nevertheless in reaching back into history beyond the most recent
134 in the construction of something new (in its current context) out of something old, these actors are creatively pressing the boundaries of modern schemata. Butler asks, repetition is bound to persist as the m echanism of the cultural reproduction of identities, then the crucial question emerges: What kind of subversive repetition might call into ( 1990, 42 ) The lived experience of this bounded performance c ommunity seems to offer an answer. By subverting modern understandings of capital drawn from popular history and fantasy, wenches at Festival reiterate and refashion older narratives in opposition to contemporary interpretations and use the reformulated na rratives and the characters that inhabit them to establish identities in opposition to the offerings available to them outside the community. Having been forged in community and internalized in performance, these narratives become meaningful even outside t he bounds of the immediate community and affect the larger social world. Even the Queen is a wench. Queen Catherine proudly displays her Wenches Guild pin as prominently as do the working class lane performers and Rennie acts. WIT pin on a younger performer. WITs, or Wenches In Traini ng, are young women who hope someday to erine what that meant her answer was threefold. First, she explained, a wench is sovereign She rules her business and personal affairs, and, most importantly her sense of self. Second, a wench is sensual
135 illustrated her power over sel f in that no single man ever tamed her. Finally, a wench is social She lives in and through community. The Wench Queen never allowed herself to be referred to that way, bu t everything that makes wench a (as the Bay Area Renaissance Festival is known to performers and platrons), enjoys being the director of her own affairs. Her role as quee n has a natural connection to her role as Catherine goes on to describe Elizabeth I who remains the standard Queenly character at Festivals that prize historical recreation, and who is the reference character even in the creati on of fictional Queens like Catherine as an untamable, unmarried Queen who was fiercely independent and representative of everything a wench desires to be. Catherine, like many Festival performers, is an ardent student of popularized history. But for Renni (the history written by hi sto rians) (the popularized notions of historical personae and the folk narratives of their lives). 2 History as written is not nearly so important as broad strokes that make for good character development. e world of men without 2 in
136 Queen and her ladies in waiting, claiming that Elizabethan fashion in general was an expression of the feminine influence on the culture of the day. The men wore ornate was capable of wielding war and violence, her reign saw flowering diplomacy, a refinement of Court, and the flourishing of art and the English langua ge. All these, Catherine notes, are reasons Elizabeth stands as one of the great icons of accomplished women in history. Catherine sees Renaissance Festivals as primarily women centered endeavors. asu 1960 Despite the fact that Festivals have become in most instances corporate promoted performances, Cathe rine maintains that the corporate promotion does not mitigate in significant ways the character of Festival as a community endeavor. She describes it as a complex family made up of inter connected tribes and lays claim to a feminine power and perspective r unning through the tribes that enmeshes the community. The Wenches Guild is the one common denominator among all of the various component performance groups that make up festival. There are wenches among the local street performers, among the Rennies, and among the boothies and crafters, and nearly all of the costumed patrons you see, if they are a woman, they are most likely wearing a guild pin somewhere on their person.
137 i Renaissance women in general, there is this sense that Elizabeth was a pretty big game men in the There is then a narrative significance to Renaissance women, be they wenches or nobles, that speaks to the performative construction of identities for Festi val participants. This narrative value stems from the archetypal nature of the roles for which they stand, whether those roles are born out universally or consistently throughout the history from which they are drawn. Ren women are making archetypes for th emselves. The fact that they are representative fictions that have at least an etymological basis in historical reality makes them powerful as components of the system through which performative identities are realized. By reaching back to harness perceive d schema from the past, performers are empowered to go beyond the constraints of the present. The fact that these images precede the current social reality lends them vigor and imbues them with credibility and validity. el for Gendered Communities The power of the imagined archetypal characters employed at Ren Fest stems not only from the fact that these characters are drawn from a time before and beyond present constraints, but also because these characters are envision ed as coexisting within present realities. The Wenches Guild is in essence a cultural feminist group. Rosemarie Tong
138 sharing, nurturing, giving, sympathizing, empathizing, a Guild revels in the differences between men and women and values these differences as powerful components of an ideal world in which they can define femininity for themselves. Lady Jane and Princess Isabella, two members of me into their wenches reading group to discuss their perspectives on idealized representations of masculine and feminine characters at Festival. They draw many of their character representations from historical research like the Uppity Women series of books by Vicki Leon who discusses the lives of hundreds of women who have made names for themselves throughout history. raisers, and these books bring them into the Jane explains. Fun Uppity Women of the Renaissance Uppity Women of Medieval Times and a host of others in the series serves to anchor the reading list of the wenches book club. Fantasy titles dot the landscape as well wit Wheel of Time series. Jordan writes his novels from multiple points of view with strong women characters taking center stage. see the way that their differences conflict with each other but wor
139 We connect well on this point as I too have read the fantasy series. Jordan imagines a world in which, because of an ancient taint on the magical abilities of men, political and social power have become the purview of women. Jane The guys can still be rogues or knights, but we get to be powerful Fantasy worlds of literature influence Puddleton as much as the world of the s ixteenth c entury does. Instead of councils, communities of female conjurors and hereditary queens The men there are every turn. Catherine puts t his point into perspective. circle of Wise Women who really Sensual Play/Sexual Prowess sovereignty in the negotiation of gender as a director of her own affairs. She was not a woman who merely s ucceeded within a world of men, nor was she a ruler who simply overturned the world of men. Rather she is characterized by Festival women as a ruler who constituted a feminine centered culture not in opposition to but rather in collaboration with a culture of men. I have suggested that the Wenches Guild is essentially a cultural feminist camp, but
140 many wenches fall in line quite well with Tong description of libertarian feminists who en are no more When I suggested the term libertarian to one of the more conservatively minded Elizabeth a wench. The first aim of the wench is sensuality Is your tongue registered as a precision surgical instrument? Have you been accused of smuggling melons across state lines? When removing your bra on Monday, do you find enough loose change to buy breakfast? biting, ample displays of bosom, and just the right kinds of touch. Lady Jane tells me that even though the term wench retains its positive meaning as a descriptor of the independent cause for pride and not offense. She explains: words that other people mean negative ly. We actually organize ourselves by years as a wench: one year in the guild is a tart; two years is a hussy; five is a jade,
141 t college students, housewives, strippers and entrepreneurs. During my initial weeks as a Ren Fest performer, I became quickly accustomed to the declaring that everybody kne w Elizabeth was doing it with Sir Francis Drake and who knows else. When male patrons become too familiar with Queen Catherine, she rebukes them coyly. During my first full weekend of performance, I wandered off into the lanes on my own to interact with patrons and take notes. Knowing my conservative religious background, Catherine warned me to be careful lest I become victim of a public wenching. As the day was getting near to closing gate, I was approached by two female platrons f ully garbed. They were accompanied by their husbands who were only tunic with puffed sleeves, accented by embroidered gryphons. The skirted tunic is worn with only tight s and boots. By the time they reached me, one platron was pawing my gryphons while the other was flapping about with my skirt, threatening to lift it up. Their
142 husbands laughing, I could smell several hours of beer on all of them, and I began to wonder at this early juncture if I had chosen my research area poorly. aged women commented as she slid her commented her husband. Figure 15 : The Author, In Costume This interaction is but one of many in which wenchly sensuality is expressed as a normal part of festival interaction. Lady Jane, too made sport of me of ten with her husband, a looking on. This kind of sensuality is viewed as
143 playfulness that is an essential part of the Festival world. The physical touch is as much in relish of the richness of fa bric and costume as it is a celebration of pleasure in the body. Nonetheless it stirs distinct feeling s of virility and a sanguine appreciation for an economy of pleasure in the body. pleasure or arousal, s N or do the wenches see it simply as a reversal of negative bodily objectification. At Festival bodies are simultaneously as pleasurable object s and relational subject s The pleasure centered approach of Festival levels the playing field by declaring men as potentia l objects of desire as well. hood is cemented in their perception that she was unwilling to allow any one man to keep her, preferring instead to play the irony of her using it as a co ver for her sexual freedom and prowess which she aimed at who m ever she deemed fit. A Community of Wenches Sovereignty and sensuality induction as the leading member of a In addit ion her sociability marked her as the herald of a new age of English community; s he is imagined as a ruler who allowed England to reinvent itself as a more democratic community. A. N. McLaren (1999) observes that concepts of hierarchy, patriarchy, and com monwealth changed during the early reign of Elizabeth I. McLaren argues that both men and women had to reinvent themselves as citizens because of changing conceptions of monarchy during the performers a
144 symbol of performative possibilities. For them, Elizabeth stands as an icon of the English Renaissance. As a performed character, her reign is envisioned as giving birth to art, expression, and diversity in ways that were unavailable to past genera tions. As Wench in Chief, it is Elizabeth or some character very like her who leads the world from English medievalism across the line to English renaissance, a notion that is central to Despite a primarily cultural feminist point of view, the Wenches Guild does not take an essentiali charter makes its stand on diversity clear: We, the undersigned, having put aside our personal differences, are come together to support each othe r in our belief of a common (but not ordinary) sisterhood of Wenchdom. We agree to support our sisters with loyalty and honesty. We will not rush to judgment on any issue or person. We will respect each other's views and air any disagreement in an organize d, calm and open manner (ie: no screaming, hair pulling catfights in public places, etc. no matter WHAT the Rogues might politically neutral, remembering that we are a diverse group holding many different opinions. Our diversity, bound together by a single common ideal, is part of our strength and must be celebrated, NOT trampled into uniformity. Not only are differences in political perspectives tolerated and encouraged, but faith di fferences and gender orientation differences are not simply tolerated but celebrated. Although guild members admit that their views of women and men might generally be
145 considered by some to be sexist, nonetheless they represent a broad cross section of spi ritual perspectives, political orientations, and sexual identities. The guild makes a and what it considers anti male forms of feminism while explicitly discouraging stereotypes of both men and women. The cultural feminist perspective has been criticized for being essentialist and for retreating from politics to emphasize life style (Taylor and Rupp 1993, 32). This criticism itique of Judith Butler but in reverse. Whereas experience stemming perhaps from a nave unwillingness to tackle large structures of power, cultural feminism has been seen as retreati ng from the political fight as well. Although practical means of enacting subversion, the politics of the personal among Festival tercultural movement aimed at reversing constitute communities of change. If Ren women envision wench as a model of independence and di versity, they hold up Elizabeth and other noble women like her as archetypes of feminine political power and sensual prowess that enable other women to be independent and diverse. The suality invites
146 and returns it. Elizabeth stands as the equal to male political power and offsets it not only Although anachronistically employed (the habit of the monarch referri Festival community. It symbolizes not simply the magnanimity and expansive nobility in the person of the queen, but rather the nature of the c ommunity which is an expression of that character in a community of women. When Que en Catherine receives patrons a t the welcome of the community. It is an invitation in to a performance community with a feminist ethic As sovereign s of their own space and culture Ren women seek to model the power of self direction and self definition. As sensual beings, they seek to claim the power of pleasure without reference t o masculine control. And as social beings, they seek to embody community and diversity. Female Masculinity If Elizabeth is a cultural feminist, Grania is her butch sister. In Chapter Three I the Irish Pirate Que en as she is called by Festival a character taken nom inally from the pages of histories like legend, and historical fiction like Morgan (1986) She King of the Irish Seas Puddl call describes her as : She takes her role as chiefta i n very seriously and her people are her main concern.
147 She will, therefore, do whatever she deems necessary to kee p them well and out from under English control A detailed character study provided by the casting director gives further background on this Irish folk Grainne Ni Mhaile or Grania. She was born to a sixteenth century Irish c hieftain named At a young age Grania, having been told that life on a ship was not for women, cut of her hair and sneaked to serve. In short orde r she was recognized as a valuable member of the crew and raised to second in command. At 15 Grania entered into a political marriage to Donal O'Flaherty, and after his death in a clan war In defiance of Englan d and in defense of her family, Grania built large holdings of land and a large fleet that controlled Clew Bay and the surrounding waters. She ventured out to trade as far as Scotland, France and Spain. Accused of piracy and inciting rebellion against the English Crown which had begun to encroach on her territory beginning in the days of Henry VIII, Grania petitioned Elizabeth for a redress of grievances in exchange for cessation of Irish rebellions. She met with the Queen in 1593. Refusing to bow t o Elizab eth because Grania did not Grania continued to support Irish rebellion. Grania has become a regular character, played by a performer named Tina. D ressed all in black with long leather boots and carrying a sword and a large
148 collection of knives, Grania Known as Grace onl y to the English, she is the at the h uman c hess b attle, and is portrayed as Queen C nemesis or as her personal privateer. dominant. Romantic advances by men are answered with duals (which she always wins), and her relationships with her female crewmembers are sensuously ambiguous. I encountered Grace during my first day at Festival. I was advised to go first to the chess matc h. The show sided match pits her aga inst the mayor himself. She fights with two swords; he fights with a sword and dagger. Flipping him over her head and onto his back, Grania lands atop the mayor, straddling his chest and pinning his arms while holdin g his own dagger to his throat. you grinning lasciviously. side of the
149 a young woman dressed in harlequin pulls out a dagger to d efend the helpless mayor, and Grania rolls to the side to defend herself. The mayor attacks her from behind, but Grania lands a kick to his chest and backhands him into unconsciousness. es at Grania, who handily unarms her, grabs her around the waist and puts the dagger now to for a long moment, and Grace walks away from the corpse without looking down. Despite her viciousness, Grania is one of the most cheered characters at Festival. Her p ower is expressed in terms of virile and violent masculinity This type of masculinity is the transgressive when it is not tied to the male body (Halberstam 1998). Judith Halberstam argues that decoupling masculinity from men can be subversive but that gen erally it is only accepted if the gender transgressors are heterosexual. In this at best Although she makes advances at men in her performances, they are most often for the purpose of rebuffing them and using the op portunity to display her power and dominance. There is irony in her very name, which she decla simply co opting masculine power. For Tina, the masculine performances are personally
150 rewarding because they allow her to display her own tom boy nature in a way that is popular with audiences Grania and Masculine Power Tina d escribes herself as leading an essentially boring life. An office manager for a small local company, she says she became involved in Renaissance Festival performance when her friend Brandon auditioned. pl aying games growing up, and I think I like playing Grace really boy myself, and rather than being looked down on for it, Grace is like the hero, or maybe the anti ription of herself as a tom boy seemed to me an understatement. After that first chess match, I attempted to connect with her and Brandon in the green room, and I was incredibly intimidated by her. She was dressed all in black, her open fronted skirts reve aling leather breeches and high boots with several daggers protruding from belts hung over her shoulders and crossed in the front. She lounged with a dangerous grace even off stage. Smoking a cigarette, she looked at me in my skirted doublet and velvet hat
151 interacting with Tina. She sp ends most of her time with the R ogues and is considered one of the boys. Althou gh Halberstam observes an inequitable judgment in favor of heterosexual masculine women, boy illustrates that female masculinity is often just as difficult in the negotiation of her own identity as a mascu l i n e heterosexual woman She tells me that being part of Fe stival is one of the things that has finally made her comfortable with her personal identity. ed to Grace is called In her day she was seen as unconventional for her use of s (2003) declares that Grania was maligned in her day accused of promiscuity and piracy because she refused to adhere to the expectations of her gender. Though not nearly as w ell known as Elizabeth, Grania is an Irish hero and has inspired generations of literature and art. Traditional Irish songs and poetry abound in her honor with the ballad Or S do Bheatha 'Bhaile her unconventional and beleaguered womanhood, Grania is taken as a model for masculine femininity among Festival performers, and as a broader cultural archetype with
152 an ever growing cultural popularity in stage productions and even a feature film in the making. At Festival, Grace has become a staple. In wife you see in old movies. Renaissance women were powerful. Some of them, like Elizabeth, could work around the Halbertstam argues th at female masculinity is not a gender construction derived a devalued category in illustrates a willingness among Festival participants to accept female masculinity as a construction with a long cultural history. Their argument for accepting th is gender schema mirrors the ir construction of the wench role The mythology of Festival s female masculinity sees it as ha ving been there all along. Making Herstory Whether wench, queen, or pirate butch, women at Festival push the boundaries of Elizabeth Bell (1995), it is not in pleasure and exhibitionism, but rather in the fear of F estival w omen do not fear to exhibit, to express themselves and their community in rhetorically significant ways. They do not fear their differences with men, nor ar e they w illing to allow mascul ine powers to diminish their constructions of
153 self. The Ren woman knows, as Jill Dolan says of the powerf to wield the authority of stage presence, how to control the seductions inherent in the frame, and how to speak the language so that authority, seduction, and language mean (1993, 1). Women at Festival refuse to be made by history, and instead seek to be h i story makers o r as one wench put it, herstory makers Mining the pages of histories written most often by men, they make history not only by attempting to leave a mark on a culture through a women centere d guild, but also through performances of women who become for them models of feminine power and self definition. They are making myths and writing archetypes into the soul of a community empowered in notions of pleasure and diversity In 1977 Joan Kelly She notes that while Renaissance ladies appear as the equivalent of the courtier in education, culture, and charm, that charm became for the Renaissance woman the chief aim. Kelly Gadol quotes from a Renaissance handbook of nobility that recounts "in a Lady who lives at court a certain pleasing affability is becoming above all else, whereby she will be able to entertain graciously every kind of man" (1977, 33) On the emergence of feminist history, Joan Wallach Scott (1988, 3) notes that although new facts from story is central to Festival women The Uppity Women of past generations are mythopoeia completes in its own way the work of feminist history the creation of new
154 mythic realities and na actor does, between what an actor sees and what she is becoming. Mythmaking is an act of will that stocks the costume clo set with creative possibilities and f emini st performers will r each into th at closet of possibilities for generation s in order to dress as woman, step on stage, and become.
155 CHAPTER FIVE A COMMUNITY OF DIFFERENCE: In February of 2002 the Largo City Commission threaten ed to terminate the 22 year old contract that permitted the Bay Area Renai ssance Festival to stage their F aire on Largo property. Festival performers jokingly called this the Tenth Annual End of BARF. The Commissi on had been threaten ing for years to shut down the event, arguing that its raucous participants were disturbing to the surrounding community. When it became obvious that the city was no longer just talking, the Festival community roused itself. The village became a site of what Victor Turner (1980) calls a social drama : a public conflict suddenly included the pirates threatening to burn the village and carry off its inhabita nts to sell as slaves in a thinly disguised reference to the City Commissioners as pirates and Rennies as truly endangered victims. In April, after Festival ended, the City Commission voted to shut Puddleton down once and for all, but gave them permission to use the grounds for one more season. The last day of the 2003 performance ended with Puddleton surrendering forever to Grace village to ward the chess board, shouting :
156 "We're taking over the town!" and then, breaking the frame, "We're going to show Largo what we're about!" King and Queen watched from their thrones as the Lord and Lady Mayor's household was ushered onto the chess board. Townspeople and patrons crowded the field, pistol to her head. "I yield the town," he sobbed, grabbing his golden haired daughter whi le the king Parting Glass moved just up the road to Tampa and continued on as the village of Merriweather. Loyal cast an d playtrons narrated themselves into Merriweather using the same mythologies that made Puddleton such a vibrant performance community. posted by a performer that read, The Drag on is Dead, but Beware its Siblings Entering the empty village, I walked through the massive oaks and reminisced on the three years of performances that had defined the space for me. The grass on the chess board had been removed by performers in great blo The old oaks, hundreds of years old amongst which we re scattered buildings, seemed to be silent repositories of our memories.
157 Purpose of This Study In this study I have shown how participants at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival constitute community and gender in and through performance. Utilizing the words and worlds of participants, I have demonstrated that the Fes tival community is empowered in play, self reflection, social commentary, and pleasure. By voluntarily stepping out of serendipitously create a community of difference. I have shown that, against the backdrop of conventionally masculin e performances significant reconstitutions of masculinity happen in and through performance s at Festival enacted individually by performative agents. Finally, I have demonstrated Festival to be a women centered community that engages in a mythopoeia of feminist history Chapter One located Ren Fest within a discussion of carnivalesque performance and living history. David festivalism restored behavior and performative agency center Festival as a celebratory community that engages in social change through personal transformation. My participant observations demonstra ted in each of the chapters that followed how that transformation plays out for individual performers. Chapter Two introduced the concept of levels of performance commitments and illustrated the ways performers and playtrons mutually produce community thro ugh participative performance, celebratory objects, and the surrender of personal space. Chapter Three related the transformative performances of five festival men, showing how performance breaks down social barriers, promotes self definition, and resistin g impulses to define men even opens the field for new
158 the potentials of performative agency to enable communities of difference. The Wench, the Queen, and the Pirate She King all embody feminine power and serve as archetypes of feminine narratives that privilege self definition. Acknowledging Festival as multivocal community of mythopoets, I have significantly extended the work of previous research on Renaissance Festival s. Rather than focusing on Festival performa nces as attempts at historical authenticity, I have mythology and archetype to their own purposes. And moving away from an audien ce centered discussion of its performances, I have shown how individual performers, through personal transformation, can become agents of change through performance. Significant Contributions T o date, t his dissertation is the only study of which I am aware that has engaged gender as performative at Festival. It has shown that gender in performance can be enabled, extended, and reconfigured in ways real and meaningful to performers. The performative agency that Judith Butler argues for is revealed at Festiva l to be not only possible, but powerful. Although gender theorists like R.W. Connell take a more structural approach to reconfiguring gender, addressing global politics and economics, Butler has argued that individual agency has the greatest potential to r einscribe social reality. Rather than envisioning what performance does to and for audiences, I have demonstrated the power of performance for the performer not simply as a theoretical
159 construct but as voiced in the words of participants who spoke so eloqu ently of their own lives, joys, and challenges. As agents struggle to appear (Blau 1990), performance becomes a powerful means of social change embodied in the personal transformations of the performer. But more important in terms of individual agency, thi s ethnography has shown that performance empowers individuals to self define in issues ranging from personal politics to sexual orientation. Debates over nature versus nurture, liberal ade into the background if we are empowered by the embodiment of myths we help to create. Taking the notion of Jungian archetypes out of the realm of a theoretical universal unconsciousness this project demonstrates the power of mythological narratives in the empowerment of self and community. The mythopoetic movement, much maligned for universalizing gender, highlights the power of myth and archetype in an agent centered constitution of self. As stories we tell about ourselves, mythic embodiments open the way to (Schechner 1985) so that mythohistory becomes a means of turning our dreams of the middle ages (or any other age) into community narratives. Vital to the process of rebecoming is a community that invites the kind of my findings in this project. It enables a community envisioned as springing from mutual celebration. What festival celebrates is not simply history, nor even the mythohistory which I so strongly argue is constitutive of Festival; but rather, Renaissance Festival is a communal celebration of re birth and persona l agency tha t gives privilege to the notion of
160 diversity As communication scholars interested in dialogue, intersubjectivity, and genuine community, we should note the Festival world and seek to understand its community. Politically, Festival enacts personal agency in the daily exchange of ideas about gender and approaches to history. Economically, i t enacts persona l agency in a marketplace that is both enabled by and resistant to spec tacle capitalism. Relationally, i t enacts per sonal agency respect and personal expression. Finally, if there is a reigning myth at Festiv al an archetypal model, revealed in aking so successfully promotes and enacts femininity in such a wide range of enactments and embodiment a nd that s o successfully invites others to join in the play of these acts of feminine power? A wench understands that performance is simultaneously powerful, reach at Festival. P erformance engages symbolic power to enable the self in its struggle to appear, and feminine self definition appears at every corner. Performance engages bodily and emotional pleasure to facilitate knowledge of self and revelation of self to other. Perform ance engages playfulness in ways that absorb, unsettle, enchant, and awe us through the exultation of the possible.
161 Implications for Future Research This study has explored performative agency in gendered performances and offered tentative answers in r egard to the ways performance can liberate individual experiences of sexual orientation. If gendered sexuality is one fruitful avenue of investigation, then race and ethnicity also deserve future attention. This study only scratched the surface of my Scott ish heritage and its fund of cultural capital for performance. Future studies might explore how whiteness is enacted at Festival as the unspoken ground for building mythopoetic selves and communities, how and why people of color are a small part of this Fe stival community, and how ethnicity like gender is a reiteration of history, materiality, and discourse. Race and ethnicity are a tremendously rich area to explore at Festival. Class, too, needs to be explored, especially as linked to the consumerism, pro duction, and consumption that undergird the Festival experience for participants and audiences. Much of the labor at Festival, the hard manual labor of hand craftsmanship and the hard physical labor of jousting, returns to and longs for a physicality lost in the machine age. How this physicality is classed as masculine, as blue collar, as economically precocious deserves attention in future research. Much of the labor of the royals, too, is physically daunting: the costumes and demeanor require tremendous f inancial cost and physical discipline. These physicalities and their class linkages are ripe for exploration. Spirituality is still another area only hinted at in this study. Festival participants explore and promote their spirituality in an atmosphere of open dialogue and respect for
162 the Other. Christian imaginings of holy knighthood and Pagan imaginings of Celtic shamanism run alongside one another. Festival is ripe with spiritual symbolism for Neo Christian recreationists who attend as Templars, monks, nuns, and priests as a means to discussing their faith. The pedagogy of Festival deserves attention, too. How do Rennies teach through doing and being? How is apprenticeship long practiced in skilled trades returned to and enacted in performances, shopkeeping, and cooking? How is improvisational performance arguably among the most difficult of performance styles prepared for, articulated, and elaborated? And how is performance its elf pedagogical? Instructions More broadly its very culture and character is communicated through performance. Renaissance Festival is an obvious outgrowth and continu ation o f the folk movement of the 1960 s. The music and dance of festival is an artistic branch that runs parallel to folk rock, the protest song movement, and folklorist music, which have all sprung from folk xplored in this context. several sites in which festivalism arises as a communal outpouring of celebration, including h arvest f estivals, c raft f airs, f ilm and m usic f estivals, and even spontaneous theatrical celebrations that spring up in the margins of capitalistic spectacles. Communication and performance studies scholars should attend to these sites in order to
163 better understand festivalistic communities and their potential to se rve as positive models for cultural communication and community development. Puddleton and the Forest of Symbols Victor Turner (1967) describes a Ndembu circumcision ritual in which boys from the African tribe are introduced into manhood by means of a d ays long ritual which culminates in the boys entering triumphantly after their time of healing chikoli tree, symbol of virility and strength. The boys, now celebrated as men, surround the tree and are in turn surrounded by a circle of their male elders. Outside that circle are the magic circle the young boys make the transformation from childhood to maturity. The men, as experience serves to redefine parent equilibrium, and bestow prestige upon the ritual s ubjects. In like fashion at least that is the way it seemed to me as I stood under the transporti ng, but only because of the myths that have been made and enacted in and through the community. Looking at the sunlight glinting through the trees amidst swirls of dust in Puddleton, I feel the allure of the community. Turner described the Ndembu society a s a forest of symbols. The Festival grounds, thickly treed with grandfather oaks
164 and dotted with fairy tale structures seem as well to be a Forest of Symbols, alive with the nd all its symbolic wealth while other participants stand just outside the circle, jubilant with celebration waiting to enter in and take their place in the symbolic center of a community made in shared performance. As a youngster, I can remember with grea t clarity the ways in which my dreams of the middle ages created for me a medieval stage for romantic escape and barbaric fantasy. Like many young men of my age in the 1980s, I was drawn to the mythos of gaming worlds like Dungeons & Dragons both as an es cape into the performance world of our minds and as a Saturday morning escape into cartoon adventure and morality tales. We were young men narrating a fantastical world in which we could become heroes, adventurers, or fiends while pretending our comraderie and friendship bonds into existence. D&D was a game about sitting down a nd telling stories with friends, and now that I look back on it with a more analytical eye, I see it was a game that allowed us to dream the Middle Ages meaningfully through fantasy i n order to enact and produce our burgeoning visions of masculinity. At the time, the game was attacked by cultural conservatives for promoting the occult. The great irony of those conser vative attacks on the game was that D&D relished in the same heroic l andscape and traditional gender constructions we boys had been presented by our conservative parents in bedtime stories and by Sunday night with The Wonderful World of Disney These same traditional tales of masculinity are reproduced and disputed at Festi val in meaningfu l ways. A generation of men whose masculinities
165 were modeled after Disney fied warrior heroes, and who formed meaningful relationships (both real and fictitious) around the magic circle of R ole Playing (or later in MMORPGs ), makes up a large proporti on of Festival patrons and performers. Their performances are layered with often contrasting with the performances of a founding generation of festival men, the Rennies, whose explicit goals are an escape from the traditional culture of masculinity, from what they describe as a materialistic conservative lifestyle in an attempt to explore completely different ways of living. the gypsy. But in fact, you really are a gypsy, and young people in here brandishing their swords, because when playtime is over, you can teach them about something different, some The immediate draw of Festival for so many former D&D gamers is the mythological stage the playground where He Man/Prince Charming fantasies can be displayed and explored But in e ntering that performance world, we Festival men are confronted not only with images from our childhoods, but also with powerful alternatives to conventional images of our masculine selves and that of our feminine counterparts. Festival women craft images of themselves drawn from history and from fairytale and pretend them into being. Like the drums that draw out the so called wounds of men seeking therapy in dark woods, the drums of festival play to draw us into a way of being
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Matthew Johnson received an A A degree from Florida College in 1993, a B A degree in Communication from the University of South Florida in 1995, and an M A degree fro m the University of South Florida in 1997. He started teaching in the Speech division at Florida College in 1999 and served as the Director of Forensics for Florida D degree. W hile in the Ph.D. program at the University of South Florida, Mr. Johnson was a ctively involved in theater, ministry and community outreach programs He has assist ed in progr ams serving on curriculum development committees and proposing a B.A. degree in Communication He has won numerous performance awards and is active in promoting competitive communication events across the country
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An ethnography of the bay area renaissance festival :
b performing community and reconfiguring gender
h [electronic resource] /
by Matthew Johnson.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains X pages.
Dissertation (PHD)--University of South Florida, 2010.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
ABSTRACT: This performance ethnography analyzes the means by which performers at Tampa, Florida's Bay Area Renaissance Festival constitute community and gender through performance. Renaissance Festivals are themed weekend events that ostensibly seek to allow visitors to experience life in an English Renaissance village. Beginning with the theoretical assumption that performance is constitutive of culture, community, and identity, and undergirded by David Boje's festivalism, Richard Schechner's restored behavior, Victor Turner's liminoid communitas and Judith Butler's performative agency, The Festival is explored as a celebratory community that engages in social change through personal transformation. Employing reflexive ethnography and narrative as inquiry, Chapter Two catalogues and analyzes a broad range of festival performances, from stage acts and handcraft production, to participatory improvisation, dance, and song. Playful and liminoid, these performances invite participants to make performance commitments and mutually to produce community through participative performance, celebratory objects, and the surrender of personal space. Chapter Three argues that performances of alternative masculinities at festival play out against the backdrop of R.W. Connell's heteronormative masculinities. These alternative performances break down social barriers, promote self-definition, and provide agency in the embodiment gendered experiences. Likewise, Chapter Four features Festival's feminine performances that reveal the community to be a "wench's world" privileging Judith Butler's notion of performative agency in order to enable communities of difference. The Wench, the Queen, and the Pirate She-King all embody feminine power and serve as archetypes of feminine narratives that privilege self-definition. This study demonstrates Festival to be a women-centered community that engages in a mythopoeia of feminist history. Acknowledging Festival as a multi-vocal community of mythopoets, this ethnography significantly extends the work of previous research on Renaissance Festivals. Rather than focusing on Festival performances as attempts at historical "authenticity," this study reveals Festival's mythological stance and the means by which performers embody mythology and archetype to their own purposes. Moving away from an audience centered discussion of performance, this study demonstrates how individual performers, through personal transformation, become agents of change through performance.
Advisor: Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.