Acting for the Street

Acting & Character . Street . Stage . Terminology . Characters . Names . Professions . Body . Voice . Mind . References

All the Faires a stage. Q: After stepping from the stage into the dusty faire street, where are you? A: Still on stage -- preserving the faire illusion. Acting at faire is part rote and recitation; but the majority is interactive and improvisational. Your stage is the street and the script is a freeform interaction between you and the visitors to your village (no matter how improbably they are dressed). A few wits and a little preparation and you're ready to have successful interactions.

All interactions have three parts -- an initiation, the conversation, and the exit. Give yourself confidence by memorizing some general purpose outs which will let you exit whenever you like. When working with customers (particularly in the polite midwest as the Mongers discovered at Bristol), you'll need the out to let the customer escape! Memorize a stall or two to give yourself time to think. When you're confident you can make your escape, devise some initiation bits and hit the street.

Improv classes can build confidence, but you already know everything you need to have a conversation. Be polite, stay in character, and listen to the other person. You'll say hello, talk about something, and then say goodbye.

keep it "real"
if a person is dressed as a knight, they ARE a knight: "I say Good Sir Knight...". If they carry a stack of ten beer cups, they ARE a prodigious drinker. You don't need to invent everything: use what is actually there. Stay in your character and address the "reality" of the situation. Stuck? Use your out and get on your way.
bit/gig
a small bit of prepared material which can generate conversation. Sometimes this is a material object: "I say good man, have you ere seen a more magnificent fish?". Sometimes its a query: "I possess a terrible boil, couldst thou help me?". Or even a metaphysical question: "While the Moon is a lesser body than the lordly Sun, they occupy the same sphere; how does the moon not catch fire?" Or it can be as simple as politeness -- "How now good gentles, hast thou a pleasant day?"
out
your ticket to exit a gig that is going nowhere fast. In RL (real life) you use these when you hang up on a telemarketer, evade a pollster, or get off a longwinded phone call. It is a quick simple and unambiguous exit. "Thankee good gentles, I can tarry no longer." Or "Gods teeth! I've forgotten my baby!" Or the stall-out, "Allow me to ponder these words; I will speak with thee anon." And to the gig going down in flames, "Z'wounds! A Flaming Cart Wreck!"
stall
a phrase, sound, gesticulation used to stall for time. Ideally you should be able to spit it out whenever you get stuck and give you or someone a moment to jump in. "Be that the truth.", "Weeellllll thennnn."
hit & run
a short gig where the target has little input. great with reticent customers, but not as satisfying as a conversation.
block
a refusal to participate, ignoring whatever has been offered. "Hast thou a three-eyed pig seen?" "No." (or Zerner style - "Shut up."). Sometimes blocks occur because two people are working to different ends. (See the improv game Yes, And... where you accept the other person's statement AND THEN add to it.) Customers block all the time because they feel shy or put upon: gauge this carefully. Finally, theres a big difference between "No" and looking around furtively, sticking your hands in your pockets, looking up at the sun, whistling, and saying "Ahhhh, no?"
the good
you make someone's day by having a real interaction and supporting the illusion of a market town.
the bad
Sometimes gigs go bad. You mentioned the Pope to a family of Catholics. The nice looking man is really drunk. The sweet kids decide they want to hit you with their wooden swords. Don't bother with your out, just drop character, say sorry and walk. If need be, grab the nearest costumed participant and walk with them. If really need be, grab security.
the ugly
Don't go looking for trouble. Use your common sense. That aforementioned guy with ten beer cups is drunk -- would you talk to him out-of-character? Families are safer than couples, couples are safer than single men, single men are safer than packs of men. After the second drunk bit into one of my rotten fish, I vowed never again to hawk to single men at the end of the day.

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