The Framing of the Gig

During the last stormy, rainy Sunday of our Sonora weekend, Her Grace  wisely took advantage of the opportunity to ask our friend Joel Radell (in his persona as Lord Montague) to assist us with some practice in improvisation. This is what we do every time we embody our faire personas and interact with one another and the patrons to depict our time and place – 1562 in Scotland.  I was grateful for Lord Montague’s help and wanted to point out in this post one key aspect of what he offered us – the concept of framing a gig/improv by defining it’s limits and motivations.

Lord Montague asked Lady Guyonne and me to practice an improvisation so we could learn how to better interact as our characters. He then gave us the most important direction – I am paraphrasing but in effect he said to me: “You know that Guyonne has some information you very much want her to reveal, but you don’t want to let her know WHY you want it”.

To Guyonne he (again, paraphrasing) said: “You know that the information you have is important to Bothwell, but you don’t want to reveal it until he makes clear WHY he wants it.”

We then went on to have a very enjoyable and instructive improv.  What was so enjoyable and what brought out the best in our performance was the fact that we had been given motivations and limits to what we wanted and what we would each do to get what we wanted.  What I want to point out here is the importance of the framing Montague gave us, and how we should emulate this in our own gigging.

Improvisation as a faire persona may very well be the most difficult aspect of the acting we are called upon to deliver as members of Saint Andrews Guild. It requires that we carry on in conversation and behavior as a character in the same way as we might do so as ourselves in normal, everyday life. I find it difficult to be natural and unaffected in everyday life as myself – how much more the challenge to be so as a character I am putting on like a costume!

But improvising some talk and action between ourselves is only one aspect of our performance. We can go through a day greeting each other, interacting in our roles, sharing some talk and banter between us with patrons – but what we call a  “gig” is much more than that.  A gig requires framing – a context and a driving force that provides us with a way to improvise a story that interests our audience.

As I pointed out in my paper last spring – Go Big – Acting in a Faire Environment – anything we might call a “gig” needs to tell a story.  A story has a beginning, middle and end.  A story has an arc – a movement in time from a start to a finish.  And such an arc cannot be created by mimicking everyday behavior.  If the well-worn and innocuous moments of our daily lives were so interesting we would not be a species that tells stories.  But we are a species that tells stories, and if we are to grab and keep the attention of our audience and give them an enjoyable experience we need to tell a story.

And a story needs framing.

So when we are thinking of creating even the shortest and seemingly simple “gig”, some short “play” that will entertain and educate our audience, let’s take the time to think about and agree to a framework for it.  We don’t need to write lines, we don’t need to set out every twist and turn to the story. In fact we will have more fun and find new and more exciting ways to perform if we do not decide on every word and gesture. But framing the gig – agreeing between ourselves on the parameters of what we are after, what we want to achieve, what blocks stand in our way and how we might overcome those blocks, can go a long way toward making our performances more memorable, informative, and certainly more fun for ourselves.

Lord Montague’s lesson demonstrated that this does not take a great deal of time or effort to achieve. He gave us two simple directions – one that told Lady Guyonne what she wanted and one that told me what I wanted. We can do this ourselves, even on the fly during a faire. If I get an idea for a gig,  with just a few minutes thought and collaboration we can decide our motivations, our goals and our desires, and quickly define a gig – a story – that we can then act out to the benefit of our patrons and to the enjoyment of ourselves and our peers.

Whether we think on a gig for weeks or decide it in a few minutes, our performances will be enhanced, our patrons better informed and entertained, and our days at faire that much more enjoyable if we take the time to frame the gig as a story that will transport both us as actors and our patrons as audience into our time and place and leave them with a feeling of having been told a story, no matter how short or seemingly mundane.

I look forward to gigging with you all in the coming season.



2015 Training Recap

Good day, one and all,

As most of our members are aware, we have completed our Guild training schedule for 2015. As a part of this, there were a few handouts used in the activities of this most wonderful training, and I am happy to include them here for your easy Reference. Please note that the Gallowglass info is cut and paste from Wikipedia as a placeholder until a better write-up is provided:

Also, during the vocalization exercises, two books were mentioned as references – they would be the following two books (note, these are NOT yet correctly linked to give the Guild click-through credit. Hopefully a banner ad will be forthcoming soon…):

One of the Summer 2015 goals for this website is to expand our Member area to include more information from our various trainings. As this progresses, this simple post will expand to a wonderful new section of this website, and should include everything from Character Development to Costuming Guidance to period Dance Information for our Dance Show. But for now, as long as you click on Training Posts, our newest addition to the menu above, it will find any posts we have (currently two, including this one) related to training… Please, as always, have patience with you dear webmaster – the life of an Earl is a busy one, indeed!

In Service to Her Majesty, I am, now and always ~

Archibald Campbell
5th Earl of Argyll,
6th Lord Campbell,
5th Lord Lorne,
High Justicar of Scotland,
MacCailein Mor, and
Assistant Guild Master, Operations

My lady! You do look ravishing!

Beauty and Cosmetics: 16th Century verses the 21st century

By Lady Mary Fleming

Today’s standard of what is deemed beautiful is much different than what considered fashionable in Elizabethan times.  Today we have a wide range of cosmetics to create many types of looks, depending on personal preference. Some apply make up to enhance their natural beauty, while others create a totally different persona through the use of colorful eye shadows liners, mascaras, lipsticks and glosses.

In the 16th century snow white skin, red lips and cheeks and blond or red-gold hair were what was considered beautiful.  Alabaster skin was the sign of nobility and wealth, if you were sun tanned it signified that you worked outdoors and were of lower birth.  During these times there was no sunscreen and only the very rich could afford skin creams and skin problems such as the pox were very common. The smooth, pale, unblemished complexion that was so highly sought after was rarely a natural occurrence, so most painted their faces.

The most popular way to whiten the skin was by applying ceruse. This mixture of vinegar and white lead was highly favored by nobility and others who could afford it. There were other methods of whitening the skin. A paste made of alum and tin ash was used and sulpher could be used as well.  Foundations were also made with the base component being either boiled egg white, talc and other white materials.  They also applied uncooked egg white as a glaze to create a smooth shell to hide wrinkles.  Once the perfect whiteness was attained, some completed the look by painting false veins.

Face paint or fucus, came in a variety of reds but vermilion was the preferred material to paint cheeks and stain lips. Woman would also line their eyes with kohl and use drops of belladonna to create to make their eyes look bright and sparkly. Women also plucked their eyebrows at this time, so there is no need to go to faire with caterpillars above your eyes if you normally groom your brows.

I feel make up at faire is a personal choice.  I personally use my modern day make up in the appropriate shade for my skin color. The brand I is Bare Accentuals, which is a mineral powder. It covers imperfections well and gives you a matte look without clogging the pores. In my opinion, it does not feel like I am even wearing makeup. I tend to keep my eye shadows neutral and my eye liner brown.  Since we are photographed many times, I will apply the colors so they are more noticeable.  For my lips I use a lip balm with no color but with sunscreen added.  Throughout the day, I use blotting papers, instead of a compact, to reduce shine.  A compact just applies more makeup and layers of makeup tend to cake up during the day.

Some people prefer to do period makeup.  If that’s the look you are going after, by all means, have at it. But considering the poisonous nature of 16th century cosmetics, I would recommend finding other methods to archive the treasured alabaster skin.


Source: Elizabethan Make-up 101 by Drea Leed (