Huzzah! The Movie

500 Years in the Making

Huzzah! The Movie is an exploration of the modern subculture of renaissance festival enthusiasts -- patrons, performers, and players who look to the 16th Century to find what is missing in the 21st.

An Inclusive Definition of "Rennie"

At Scarborough Faire in Waxahachie, TX, what we would consider our home faire, we have what you might call our "local." The White Horse Tavern. This open air pub is completely outdoors and kind of separate from the rest of the festival. Everybody makes their way through the White Horse and the Ren vibe is in full force, but you're not going to be overwhelmed by parades, hawkers, or families -- all of which have their place, but sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name ;-) This is a great pub for a pint of ale, losing a little money (coins for verisimilitude) over a game of chance, and a bit of music in an intimate venue.

Anyway, this post isn't about the White Horse, it's about what we found just outside; or, rather, who. Walking down the steps out the back of the pub, as we would do numerous times a day, we kept running into a character we knew for the longest time only as, "The Courtesan." She just kind of lounged outside and chatted us up as we passed. Banter with her was part of the ritual of visiting the White Horse, and just a ton of fun. Performances are great. Shows are great. The entertainment at renaissance festivals is great but we don't go there to be entertained. We go because there's something special about being there, and sometimes it's the little things. Merilee Effingham, as we came to know her, wasn't doing a show, but she added so much to our festival experience. By just being a character, she added character -- to the festival, to the White Horse, and to the whole scene.

So, we were delighted when Merilee agreed to be part of "Huzzah! the Movie." Glenn and Robbie made it down to Texas Renaissance Festival one weekend to take a peek behind the scenes and get a look at how she prepares for a day at faire; how Amy becomes Merilee. And, as we did every time we talked to someone, we asked for her take on the word, "Rennie." Her definition is a pretty inclusive one and I rather like it.



True Blood Rennies

No, the title of this post has nothing to do with vampires. As we asked more and more people this question throughout the filming of "Huzzah!," one thing became pretty clear: the hardcore faire folk had some serious definitions of the term, "Rennie." There was a sense that the generic use of the term, the use that I had often used and seen thrown around the scene, was a bastardization of something with a true meaning. Like most labels, there were just as many people who wear it as a badge of honor as scoff at the notion of a label in the first place, but even the latter knew what a Rennie wasn't.

The Oklahoma Renaissance Festival (OKRF) was one of our favorite faires. For a pair of Texans to admit the high quality of anything Oakie is a testament to what this festival does right. From the size and quality of the cast to the choice of entertainers, there's just a very genuine and personal feel to the place. One thing we were able to do is catch up with some of our favorite performers -- the Bedlam Bards. I never get tired of watching or listening to them play and sing. Both Cedric and Hawk were gracious enough to give us interviews at OKRF. Talk about a couple guys whose hearts are really in the faire. 

Anyway, here's what Hawk had to say when we asked for his thoughts on what "Rennie" means.

I'm Not That Crazy About the Term "Rennie"

Let's start this adventure at the beginning -- in the original renaissance festival. We were very keen, from the start of production, to get out to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California. This is where it all began... sort of. RPFS is the continuation of the very first renaissance festival in America, which has been running since 1962. It's in Irwindale, CA, in a large park -- a far cry from it's humble beginnings. We met some amazing people out there; some of our best interviews, our "I wish I was around for that" moments. There's a lot of history in that faire, literally. It was amazing how much fidelity there was to historicity. I'm really looking forward to going back there someday (might be some day soon, actually).

Anyway, as we always did, we asked the "rennie question" a lot. One of our best answers came out of the Brew Master. Here it is. Hope you enjoy.

What is a Rennie?

Over our years at renaissance festivals -- both before and after Huzzah! -- we heard this term over and over: Rennie. Thing is, it always seemed to be used in a different way depending on whether you put your garb on inside or outside the gates. Someone who has worked festivals for decades is certainly a rennie, but what about the people who spend eight, maybe sixteen weekends a year at faire? The more we looked at it, the more we realized that the definitions varied from person to person. While we're putting the movie together, we're going to post some of the answers we got when we asked people this question. But first, Glenn's going to get the ball rolling...

Trollmoot

One phenomenon we've witnessed as being particular to Texas Faires -- and most particular to TRF -- is the Ren Fest Clan. This may be something that goes on elsewhere but we haven't seen it much. I think it grew out of the camping culture of TRF in which extremely enthusiastic faire-goers take advantage of an extensive campground and hundreds and thousands of people make faire an ongoing party. Camp has changed a lot over the years and it's lost something I think, but the sense of community that many of us find in Ren culture is there in spades. A hallmark of this is the faire clan.

Clan GroggTroll Ambling through Scarborough Faire. Left to Right: Eric, Glenn, Ephraim, Kristin, Robbie

Essentially a clan is a bunch of people who come together, camp together, party together, costume in similar and complementary ways, and sometimes even extend the community outside of faire. There are a number of clans at TRF including the Drunken Gnomes, Clan Chaos, and our clan, GroggTroll. Essentially it started as a joke between four of us at opening weekend of TRF 2006 -- the same weekend we conceived of Huzzah! -- we like to drink and act like cretins and our clan name would suggest that. Over the past few years, the joke has become a rallying cry, a name for us to all get behind and call our extended family at faire. We all started out as friends outside of faire, and have been going to faire together for years, so it's really just a silly contrivance. But it's our silly contrivance. Much like faire itself.

Glenn, playing his pipes at Scarby

When a significant number of trolls come together, we call it a Trollmoot (like the Entmoot in Lord of the Rings). At this point some of us are scattered to the winds -- I live in NY, some of us are in Dallas, some in Houston -- so when a Trollmoot happens, it's a special thing indeed. This past weekend was our gathering at the opening weekend of Scarborough Faire. I flew in to town for two days and we got up early and spent a full day out at Faire -- Cannon to Cannon and then some. Much beer was had, much fun was had. I looked at my camera at the end of the day and I had almost nothing but pictures of my friends -- the trolls. The day at faire wasn't about the renaissance, it was about time spent with my extended family doing something we enjoy together.