“There’s a point in time where you can just see it! This *snaps* and there it is. They’re coming out of their shells.”
– Shawn Mack (Cast Veteran/Feast & Made Up Mayhem Lead)
The world can be a harsh place. More often than not it is far more difficult than we ever could have expected. When this happens it can be all too easy to walk right into the pitfalls that leave us feeling trapped and boxed in. We can feel lonely, isolated, and cut off from our support systems not just because of the situation at hand but due to the ever-increasing expectations of the rat race we participate in. It becomes harder to maintain connections and the time to simply enjoy one’s life seems limited compared to the workload we have to take on just to get by. You can call it adulthood, real life, or whatever you please. But the necessity does not negate our need to participate in a more communal and uplifting lifestyle.
That’s where the renaissance festival comes in. For many folks it is a light at the end of the tunnel, giving them the motivation to keep moving forward. There are countdowns, fan pages, chat groups, blogs, and podcasts devoted to the event. The Ohio Renaissance Festival is no exception. We are proud to have such a large and diverse group of dedicated playtrons who attend every year. Many of our returning guests are known by name around the grounds, some of whom have taken the next step and become Rennies in the process.
“Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
– Sam Winslow (Cast Veteran/Dance Lead)
One of the most rewarding ways in which to participate is to become a member of the ORF Cast! Every year at the end of June the Aleing Knight Pub becomes the site for our cast auditions, inviting people of all sorts to come in and play with us. No matter your knowledge or skill set, the village is always looking for people with the eagerness and drive to make faire a part of their lives. But it’s no easy undertaking! Becoming a part of the village of Willy-Nilly isn’t just about showing up, but about the willingness to go the extra mile.
We have talked before about the level of hard work and effort that goes into being a member of the cast. Now more than ever it becomes apparent just how different this is from your average summer job. When you come into the cast, you are participating in both communal escapism and a theater company. Many don’t expect the level of commitment it takes to not only do this through rehearsals but to keep it going through the run and come back year after year after year. There is the blazing heat, the long days of practice, the cost of wardrobe and supplies, and all of this on top of one’s regular Monday through Friday commitment.
So if this is so much work, why do it at all?
“The crew/village is a unit, almost a character in and of itself. So being able to add what other people may not be able to add, improving the crew, bringing something different to this is what I like to look for.”
– Eric O’Donnell (Cast Veteran/Pirate Guild Lead)
For the same reason we join a DnD campaign or go out to a football match with our friends. It’s the same reason we take the weekend to go fishing on the lake or sign up to learn ballroom dance. No one is unique in their desire for a greater community and others to connect with. In a time where we are often robbed of these opportunities, it becomes worth the expended effort to make that happen. Time and time again we see people join the cast without knowing a single person around them and leave at the end of the run with friends they never knew they would meet. These friends, this community, is a big part of why you see the same faces on cast year after year. It’s how we get people who have been cast members for ten or more years and continue to do so.
The faire community is a fluid one. Some people are here every year and while their roles may differ they continue to bring the energy and love of this life with them whenever they can. Others may come for a while, leave, and return when you least expect it. Life is ever-changing. And while some faces may come and go others provide that sense of consistency we may not get elsewhere. You don’t have to be on the cast to feel this way. It is present in the shows you come to see every year like Albannach, Pirate’s Creed, The Kamikaze Fireflies, and Moonie the Magnif’cent. It is there when you yell out and throw your arms around a friend you haven’t seen since last season only for them to squeeze you back twice as hard. Faire is our community, it is our way to maintain through the hardest times and know that year after year we can come back and find it waiting.
So when you sit there counting down the days till the start of the Ohio Renaissance Festival, ask yourself this: Why wait?