The creative freedom of being on Festival cast is often overwhelming for First Year cast members therefore, First Year cast members are assigned a social class and suggested an occupation in an effort to provide early direction and foundation for character development. However, there is more to developing a character than just occupation and social class.
Follow this guide to build a foundation for a layered, fleshed-out Renaissance Festival character. Make your answers as complete as possible. Remember, these questions are about your character and not necessarily you. The better you know your character, the better you can perform your character.
This guide begins with character type, social class, and occupational divisions – all CRITICAL to character creation for the Renaissance Festival. The occupation lists included in each section of this worksheet are neither exhaustive, nor concrete. A farmer may be merchant class or peasant, depending on their personal situation. Do they run the biggest, best farm in the area? Is the farm profitable from generations of good luck? Or are they the legacy of serfdom in Europe? Are they a poor, subsistence farmer?
Remember also that many of these are broad categories with many opportunities for specialization within a field. One handmaid of the Queen may be her personal hairdresser, another her personal fashion maven. One carpenter makes furniture another builds houses. This step-by-step guide is designed to give you a starting point for your character - it is up to you to refine and specialize!
While all characters can (and should!) be both traditionally entertaining and historically informative, you must choose and define a primary direction for your character allowing one trait, Historical or Theatrical, to take the forefront over the other.
There is a subtle distinction between the two directions as detailed further below. While reading the information, ask yourself if you mostly wish to entertain through historically accurate presentation of renaissance information - OR - entertain via historically authentic theatrical, comedic, and/or performing arts skills (music, dance, circus skills, etc.)?
Historical Characters can be reenactments of real people that lived during the 300 year period of the Renaissance (i.e. Sir Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, Grace O'Malley etc.).
Historical Characters can also be real characters from legend or literature of the time period, accurately brought to life.
Historical Characters can also be your own original creation but accurately based upon real life in the Renaissance.
Your focus as a historical character should be to accurately recreate a part of history and be informative for the patrons. You may do this through conversation and/or craft skills demonstrations. You are bringing history to life.
If you choose to be a primarily historical character, you get the opportunity to be a festival expert about a certain historical figure or profession! Thoroughly research your chosen subject and be creative when considering how to present your area of expertise to the patrons!
Theatrical Characters aim to present entertainment via comedy and/or other performing arts skills such as music, dance, acrobatics, circus-skills, magic, etc.
Also, Theatrical Characters can still be based upon real people from renaissance history yet differing from a Historical Character in the sense that you are sacrificing accuracy for comedic or theatrical effect.
As a Theatrical Character, an authentic presentation of your character's occupation is still as important as the performance skills you present. We still want patrons to feel as if they have traveled back in time.
The subtle details tied to your character's occupation (props, costume accessories, etc.) are still to be incorporated into your performances to help create authenticity (but not necessarily accuracy).
Consider research about your character's occupation just as important as honing your theatrical skills. You will need both to be a diverting, yet authentic Theatrical Renaissance character!
Reference “Social History of the Renaissance” on page 39 of your Entertainment Handbook for detailed information about class structure. If you do not know your assigned class, ASK!