Let the car burn, we're going to the faire : history, performance, community and identity within the Renaissance festival
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The Renaissance festival is an interactive venue which utilizes popular and fantastic views of history to encourage audience members to participate in the performance. While these festivals share much in common with living history presentations, the open use of myth and romanticized history at the Renaissance festival, while sometimes criticized, allows the festivals to incorporate people in the performance in ways that other venues cannot. Living histories, usually heritage sites, seek to confirm and validate identity or membership within a specific community. Their methods of presentation leave little room for playing with or questioning these historically predetermined roles. The Renaissance festival, based as it is in a much earlier history and a romanticized one at that, creates more flexible group and individual identification. Because the Renaissance festival encourages the exploration of identity and community beyond those determined by the history of the historical performance, it carries the potential to change the ways in which individuals view themselves, performance, history, and community. It does so through encouraging new constructions of identity for the individual as well as new group affiliations based on interpersonal interactions, commerce, and myth. These will be viewed through the use of three case studies of the Scarborough Faire, Texas Renaissance Festival, and Michigan Renaissance Festival. Participation in these performances can encourage a questioning of how community and identity can be built and what they mean.