The Performance of Sawney Beane at the Texas Renaissance Festival
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The research presented here explores how authentic performances are created and experienced by performers by answering the following questions: (1) What performance methods are used at renaissance festivals and why are these methods chosen? (2) How do performers use these performance methods to engage themselves with history and develop personal meaning through their performances? (3) How do performers combine historical representation with self-expression? (4) How does the performance of Sawney Beane connect to general renaissance festival performance methods and festival culture? (5) How does the performance of Sawney Beane allow performers to engage with history and personal meaning? Through participant observation and informal interviews, the research presented here explores the performance methods used at the Texas Renaissance Festival and how these performance methods allow participants to engage authentically with the past, with themselves, and with each other. Comparisons are made between general renaissance performance methods and those used in the performance of Sawney Beane, revealing the connections between these performances and the subculture that permeates the festival. By focusing on the performers’ own views about their participation in these performances, the methods used here elucidate the personal benefits of participating in the renaissance festival. The primary performance methods used at renaissance festivals developed out of those used at living history museums and include immersive theater environment, audience participation, improvisation, and second-person performances. These methods work together to encourage visitors to engage personally with history by becoming physically involved in performances. While second-person performances have a limited use at living history museums, they are very prevalent at renaissance festivals, where visitors are encouraged to wear costumes and portray characters. It is argued here that this prevalence is mainly due to loosened restrictions on historical accuracy that allow participants to create second-person performances that are both personally meaningful and allow for engagement with history and community. Using the concept of embodied memorials, this research concludes that through the use of physical performances, these renaissance festival performers are able to personally engage with history and with each other in ways that allow for self-expression and define their community.
Massengale, Brandie Louise (2014). The Performance of Sawney Beane at the Texas Renaissance Festival. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from