What do we celebrate at a Renaissance Festival?
The Renaissance is a period of European History that spans from the 14th to the 17th century; it's a period of enlightened thinking and a rediscovery of classical arts and sciences. So, is that what we are celebrating? This 300-year period? Or... are we celebrating the ideas that created the period?
As a twenty-first-century man, I choose to use the term "Renaissance" as it is defined literally... a rebirth.
More than just rebirth... a revival, renewal, and resurgence of everything classical that has come before us. That's what they were experiencing 600 years ago. They didn't call the period in which they were living, "the Renaissance," they just experienced and benefited from the enlightenment.
This is the way I was thinking years ago when we decided to break away from the traditional Henry VIII 16th century festival. Why limit TRF to those 300 years? We are already pretending that we are in Merry Olde England in the 16th century. So, if we are already pretending ... Let's pretend to be pirates. Not 16th-century pirates but 18th-century pirates like Blackbeard and Anne Bonny. If pirates are acceptable ... why not Jacobean Scotts, I love "Outlander." Barbarians began invading as early as 300 AD. Huns, Francs, Saxons, Vikings, are all welcome. Oktoberfest ... you must be joking. that dates to 1810. 1001 Dreams? Fairies, elves, wizards, what time period are they? Once we decide to not let history define us, New Market Village became a magical town, much like Lerner and Lowe's town of Brigadoon that comes to life for one day every hundred years. Brigadoon is stuck in the 18th century and has just woken up from its first hundred-year nap when it is discovered by two 20th century tourists. Our magical village of New Market has awakened many times over the millennia and has been discovered by millions of patrons who return every year to experience the "magic" again and again.
I not saying our moving away from the Tudor scenario is what brought all these different time periods and character types to the festival, it did not. They were already here. Go to any "traditional festival" across the country and you will see musketeers, pirates, fairies, Roman centurions, and a menagerie of other characters historical or fictitious that don't fall within that 300-year time frame. I'm even certain that frequent festival-goers across the country have even experienced Star Wars stormtroopers, the crew from Star Trek on the holodeck, and even Marvel superheroes. Who are we to tell our audience that they must stay within the parameters of the Renaissance period?
Clearly, our audience gets it. It's not about history, it's about fantasy. It's about celebrating anything and everything that has come before us. Did you know that Henry the VIII and his courtiers used to dress up and pretend to be Robin Hood, and his merry men? By all accounts, he loved doing this, just like our audience loves putting on their costumes and pretending to be something, somewhere, and some time they are not.
History is a starting point only; our imagination is where the magic of the TRF lives.