I attended this fair as a guest three years ago and it has given me the chance to live the dream of actually being a faire performer, something that probably wouldn't have happened anywhere else anytime soon. The atmosphere is relaxed, but professional and I plan on mkaing the 8-hour round trip drive to perform there again for as long as they'll have me.
I've been with the Virginia Rennaissance Faire since it reopened in 2002. It has given me the opportunity to learn new skills and to expand on those skills through the years. Its been a great opportunity for enhancing my public speaking skills. The lessons learned while at the faire have made innumerable differences is my daily business dealings.
I became a Volunteer with OOTW productions because I visited their production one year and was literally drawn into the show and fell in love with it. I am now proud to say that I'm looking forward to my 4th year on Cast and the experience has been beyond measure. Having the opportunity to share the experience I first had of learning by becoming part of a living history play is fulfilling in many ways. Seeing the 'poppets', our youngest patrons, cherishing their Knighting Certificates and favors presented to them by the Queen; the 'unconnected teenagers' who easily engaged us with thoughtful and delving questions for nearly two hours at one of our school presentations and finally the two twenty-something ladies who took great glee in following the Lady’s Quest to find out what it really meant to be a woman in the Renaissance time have enriched my life beyond compare and given me the desire to do even more.
My family has been involved with volunteering with OOTW Productions as cast members (my children) and just in over all help, either with various product contributions, financial contributions and labor/time contributions for several years now. This effort doesn’t end with the last faire day either. There is research, input into the show and how to improve things throughout the year. Also throughout the year there are volunteer opportunities whether it is a school event, a parade, site work, or whatever comes our way. As a parent, I’ve watched my children, age ranges from 7-18, grow as people, look forward to volunteering and searching out other volunteer opportunities due to their great experience with OOTW Productions. As a homeschooling family, I can’t even fully express how our experience with OOTW Productions has been an asset in our children’s education. Our children have learned public speaking skills, research skills, acting skills (with emphasis on improvisation), team work, how to have pride in one’s endeavors —giving 100%--, whether it’s doing the site work or the joy on a faire day interacting with patrons, a personal love of volunteering in the community, and they’ve even learned practical skills from the Elizabethan era from hand sewing, paper making, leather work, weaving, knitting, crocheting, basic archery, games, storytelling and creating those stories, and so much more. Our children have worked hard, and with enthusiasm, on their characters; uncountable hours of research, reading, observation and practice on and off season, to improve their knowledge base and performance. In turn, this has developed a great love of history and literature over all, and they see how everything that has happened is so intertwined with other parts of the world and spans all times, including today’s world. The camaraderie between the staff/cast and the patrons makes for a great experience all around. The staff/cast is like one big family, and the patrons are welcomed in as if they are long lost family members. When a patron walks through the gate, they get to have a unique experience of being drawn into the show (on the “street” or on a stage), or not, if they so desire, for an interactive learning and overall enjoyable day on a reasonably low budget. We have an eclectic selection of vendors, food, games, entertainment troupes(many are volunteers themselves), to go along with the volunteer staff (first aid/security, gate duty, clean up duty, parking duty, information and education…) and volunteer actors, where the need for both to have a “home” and so our patrons have a choice of activities, shopping and nourishment. We’re always working on improving the site to make it a more comfortable and attractive event for patrons, vendors, and volunteers, but it does take funds and time. Overall, I can’t think of a better place to volunteer as a family, and even if we weren’t on staff, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a day in an interactive educational humorous way.
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.
The Virginia Renaissance Faire, an OOTW production, has created a historical, educational, and fantastical world near Lake Anna, Virginia. Every day I spend as a cast member, I get to see the delight of the wide variety of participants and guests who come through the front gate.