OUT OF THE WOODWORKS PRODUCTIONS
February 24, 2010
Working as a volunteer cast member at the Virginia Renaissance Faire has been among the most rewarding experiences of my life. After my flesh-and-blood family, VARF was the bit of home I missed most while working abroad.
The cast members and staff have helped me build my skills as a performer and a teacher through rehearsal exercises including improv games and lots of advice on costuming, historical research on my character, and characterization tips. The work I've done at the faire has helped me in my career as a tutor; I've learned to help history and literature come alive for my students, just as I do for the visitors at VARF.
Out of the Woodworks Productions has consistently put together a friendly, encouraging, dedicated, and helpful leadership team that manages to create miracles every year as the faire continues to grow. I was a cast member in 2005, 2008, 2009, and will be this year as well; I have seen how the faire has grown and learned from past experiences to make the faire more fun, safer, and better for cast members and volunteers who put a great deal of energy, time, money, and effort towards the show each year.
As in any organization, there have been the occasional disagreements, conflicts, and setbacks, but these have never gotten in the way of the primary goal of the faire--creating an educational and entertaining celebration of history. Each year it only gets better and better.
In any organization, the people are what make it worthwhile. This is an organization full of amazing people who care about one another like a family, and welcome new members and visitors in as family as well. Last year, for example, staff members and cast members alike joined together in a special effort to make a faire visit possible for a very ill ederly man, despite the difficulties. He reportedly had a wonderful day. Cast members as young as seven have grown up in the faire, learning valuable skills along the way, such as public speaking skills.
The two elements of the faire that I must most highly praise are the court guild, where I have been a member for the last two years, and Poppets' Pastymes, which provides an educational environment specifically for children within the faire. The court guild has welcomed me and helped me learn to present an authentic character and a believable yet tangible court experience for visitors. I love presenting young lords and ladies to her Grace the Queen. Poppets, meanwhile, has made various crafts such as weaving, spinning, rag-doll making, quill calligraphy, paper making, and leather stamping available for children to try (and take home their handiwork). It also has historical games, puppets, clothing, lessons in ettiquette and hornbook reading, and the opportunity to be knighted by the Queen. Being able to experience history in such a hands-on way is essential for children, and Out of the Woodworks Productions has made it possible for these experiences to be part of the gate cost of the faire. Added to such things as learning to weild a sword at the militia encampment, see the joust or watch the hounds run, and the shopping and entertainment opportunities made available every year by the Virginia Renaissance Faire, Poppets makes a particularly rounded day for a young person that will encourage him or her to investigate more about history.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
My own enjoyment of every faire day and rehearsal, my increased enthusiasm for research and teaching, and my improved handiwork skills in sewing.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
recruit more people with skills and desires that lean towards teaching and crafting, to increase the number of demonstrations possible.
What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...
working with the amazing people involved at all levels.
The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...
hardworking, helpful, and engaging. All have been extremely dedicated.
If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...
make the site more dynamic and safer, pay some of the hardworking staff volunteers and provide compensation for some of the costs now shouldered by volunteers. It could also invest in the future of the faire.
Ways to make it better...
The faire weren't so far from where I live!
In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...
spreading the workload fairly and enough that no one feels particularly overloaded.
One thing I'd also say is that...
There is a reason this faire has a growing dedicated group of core members. The experiences I've had make me believe that it's because this faire really has a collective heart.
How frequently have you been involved with the organization?
About every six months
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
Volunteer & Cast member.