With From White Plains in Ithaca now behind us, Fault Line Theatre is moving full steam ahead into our season’s next show: The Faire. For those who don’t know, The Faire follows the behind the scenes lives of five performers at a Renaissance Faire somewhere in the backwoods of northern California.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, I incorrectly thought that Renaissance Faires were exclusively for children and geeky adults. My interest was purely ironic. My opinions were predominantly held due to stereotypes since I hadn’t stepped foot in anything resembling a Renaissance Faire since my 12th birthday party.
However, a few months ago, I accompanied my young niece and nephew on a trip to “Medieval Times”. If you’re not familiar with Medieval Times, it’s basically a medieval themed dinner theatre. Like a Renaissance Faire, the event is entirely immersive. In Toronto (where I saw the show), the building is made to look like an old castle. Before dinner, there are knighting ceremonies and pictures with the princess of the castle. For dinner you enter an arena of banquet tables surrounding a large dirt jousting pitch. Over the course of the next two hours, actors portraying knights ‘compete’ against each other in games of skill and courage. In the end only one knight is left standing.
The event is obviously rehearsed and none of the competitions focus on realism. The duels and fights aren’t particularly threatening. In fact, the entire event embraces a certain element of camp.
I was rapt from start to finish.
At first, my enthusiasm was in large part a performance of its own to make the day enjoyable for my young niece and nephew. But as the show went on, it was difficult not to get swept into the excitement of the event.
I think the key is this: every single performer fully commits to the theme of the event and their specific role within it. From the actor playing the king to the men playing knights to the waiters serving us food on steel dishware, everyone buys in. This is the commitment present in all great theatre. My ironic interest upon entering was in direct opposition to this commitment. An ironic interest, almost by definition, creates a barrier; inherent in irony is the act of commenting upon, rather than just the act of participation.
I think there will always be a place for irony, but in this case, I was thankful to be reminded that allowing myself to get swept up in the excitement and joy of an event is often better than attempting to remain a critical observer.