Why I am a Street Character at a Renaissance Festival

This #write31days post is one in a series about the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.  You can find the other posts here.

You are in for a treat again today.  I have another guest post.  Please meet Jason, aka Gars, aka Hero.  He has written a note about why we do what we do, and how we get paid.  Please welcome Jason.

Photo credit to Sight Photography

Photo credit to Sight Photography

I have performed at our local Renaissance Festival for the last three years. For the last three years I have consistently lost money performing. There has been a lot of talk about fair pay and treatment and why you shouldn’t allow this to happen to yourself. There has been talk about how we are devaluing ourselves by not demanding more. I understand all of that. I get it. Here is the other side of the coin.

The first year I was involved in a large ensemble hat show. If you want to make money doing a hat show, do not perform in a large ensemble hat show. Dividing hat by 15 or 16 people gets you nothing. There was a compensation line item in our contract, but it didn’t cover expenses. At the end of the run, I came pretty close to break even.
The next year, I was in a street/service role. I lost money that year as well.
This last year I was in yet a different role and yes, I lost money.
Why do you do this? You are hurting yourself. You devalue your work when you don’t demand fair compensation. You are worth more than free lunch.
I had been a patron for some 20 or so years before finally taking the plunge. I always admired the street performers. They brought life to the village. They made the experience memorable. We finally auditioned and joined the festival three years ago, and it has changed our life. We have met wonderful performers, patrons, and support staff. My life is richer for what I have experienced. I never went into this with a thought of making enough money to pay anything. The money was, quite frankly, a surprise to me.
For me, this is my comicon. This is my dress up and go have fun in the sun at a place that I love. My compensation package has nothing to do with my contract. My first year, I felt richer for having spent 30 minutes sitting in the mud in a $300 costume, playing music for 10 or so toddlers. My second year, I was wealthy when I gave a young girl in a wheel chair, in her own words, her best day ever, for simply helping them get down the lane in character. My third year, I entertained infants by the score in the lanes, with my flutes behind the Royal Box at Shadowgate Downs.
For me this has never been about money. I am not trying to make a living doing this. I am sharing something I love with people that also love this thing. I am doing it in a way that I never thought I would have the courage to do. Would it be great if the powers that be opened up the purse strings? Sure. Do I understand the frustrations of those who are expecting compensation for their art? Yes. Do I hope that the powers that be will value you for your art and give you what you need and want for your performance? Certainly.
But, understand this. I am getting paid. I am getting paid in ways that perhaps some don’t understand, or don’t value. I have memories of doing this thing called festival. I have memories of those lives I have touched. I have had love and light transactions with people every single day. Every single day I have left the festival grounds richer for the experience I helped create.
This is why I perform at festival. This is why I spend more money than I ever get back. It’s about what I give, not what I get.

Thank you Jason for your words.  You can see more of his writing here.  And it was a pleasure to work with you this season.

Photo credit to Ed Harrison

Photo credit to Ed Harrison