The Regina Monologues: An applied study of the history and performative techniques of the American Renaissance Festival
Webb, Vanessa Ann
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Drawing on historical and theoretical research about renaissance festivals, audience participation, and immersive techniques to create a cross-over performance in a traditional theatre space, The Regina Monologues demonstrate existing parallels between the performative pedigree that informs "ren fests," site-specific work, and performances produced in traditional theatrical settings. While there is no doubt that such a performance can be developed, audience reception was an unknown variable. Can an immersive performance designed with the interactive qualities of a ren fest audience in mind appeal to a general audience of traditional theatre goers, and, likewise, can ren fest audiences enjoy such a performance once removed from its immersive atmosphere and place within a traditional theatre setting? Admittedly, this project employed a liberal use of the term 'immersive', for, as Josephine Machon's Immersive Theatres: Intimacy and Immediacy in Contemporary Performance reminds us, an interactive performance piece may not always fulfill all the requirements necessary to label it 'immersive'. However, Machon's first rule of immersive theatre - that the audience must be involved - remained a central focus of this project, as it is paramount to all ren fest performances. All performances and audiences were recorded for further study, and audience members were surveyed as to their feedback and general enjoyment of the piece, as well as their comfort with the immersive and interactive techniques employed. For audiences primarily exposed to a traditional theatre setting, I'm keenly interested in their reactions to the breaking of the fourth wall, and in a performance's demand that the audience not only witness, but participate in the successful fruition of a performance piece. Likewise, without the protection of a wholly immersive environment, can a ren fest audience feel safe to partake in an audience-interactive piece? Ultimately, this study has produced a paper focused on two areas, the history of the American renaissance festival as a corporate entity and a performance style, and parallels and divergences between the development of American ren fest acts and those of alternative performance styles. Such research informed The Regina Monologues , a 45 minute piece, presented as a part of the 2014 Buffalo Infringement Festival, July 24, 25, 30 and 31 at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum on Porter Ave. These performances, and the surveys and film-footage they produced will inspire and direct continued work on this subject.