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Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  100 ratings  ·  25 reviews
The Renaissance Faire — a 50 year-long party, communal ritual, political challenge and cultural wellspring—receives its first sustained historical attention with Well Met. Beginning with the chaotic communal moment of its founding and early development in the 1960s through its incorporation as a major “family friendly” leisure site in the 2000s, Well Met tells the story of ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 19th 2012 by New York University Press
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Apr 10, 2014 rated it liked it
It's a very well-researched book with enough analysis to keep it interested. The stuff on the origins is very good as is the reporting that comes out of the interview of current RenFaire enthusiasts as well as the overview of fictional texts that incorporate a form of the Faire. Some of it gets a little info-dump heavy. And I wish there had been more discussion of the current economics and corporate politics of the Faires. ...more
Steve Cran
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Once could say that the whole concept of the Renaissance Faire, which has become so popular, started out as a dream Ron and Phyllis Patterson. Phyllis had been involved in education and the arts back east working with Middle School and adolescent kids. When they moved out here to California they moved to the Laurel Canyon area. The concept started out as kids getting dressed up in costume and performing. They would go about on a wagon loaned from one of the many entertainment figures living ther ...more
First sentence: "This is our ethnic background!"

Visiting a renaissance faire is an exciting and unparalleled experience. This book looks at the history of the faire as a countercultural experience from its beginnings as a hippie festival in Northern California to its present as a corporately run, family-friendly endeavor that is still more unique than you find at many other events and festivals. The book looks at the faire through a social and political lens and examines it from a variety of pe
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It was interesting to read about a world that I journey through in terms of being counter-culture. While I knew that Ren Faires were not main stream, I never through of them as transgressive to the norm, which I suppose says something about myself. Rubin has written a well rounded book touching on the history, the culture, the growth and change, and even the resentments and oppositions to Renaissance Faires.

Slate has a pretty good article on the book as well which can be found at:
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Aims for the middle between academic and popular audiences, and I think it's successful. Would be PERFECT for an undergraduate class on subcultures, collective memory, or performance. ...more
Oct 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Some really great information in this book that is drowning in a sea of jargon.
Lee Ann
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This book covered everything I needed to know in my quest for research on Renaissance faires. It was not only fascinating to read about the faires and their founding years, but their evolution since then, as well as input from employees and "playtrons" alike. This book gave me a new appreciation for the faires I know and love, and also helped me feel more prepared as I begin my next writing project! I learned so much great stuff, and I can't wait to start writing--or for this year's faire season ...more
Barbara O'Neal
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An interesting exploration of a very unusual lifestyle.
Nov 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fandom
Well Met is incredibly well researched, and is a wonderful guide to the history of Renaissance Festivals, and their role from the counterculture of the sixties to subcultures today. Parts of this book are fascinating, and I would certainly recommend it highly. As someone for whom teenage visits to the MD rennfest were a major event in shaping who I am, I loved learning the underpinnings of the culture, and being able to look with new eyes on how it has evolved and how an irrelevant love of histo ...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
This wasn't the most gripping kind of insightful anthropological analysis, but it had a few moments that made it worth continuing.

I hadn't realized the Faire's roots in sixties California counterculture, but it makes sense. Nor had I realized the ways in which the Faire is transgressive in terms of gender and sexual identity, but she makes a compelling case that the "everything is performance" nature of the Faire, along with the many opportunities offered for imaginative self-reconstruction thro
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
An academic history of American Renaissance faires going back to their founding in Southern California by Ron and Phyllis Patterson. The Oregon Country Fair gets some mention as being more of an anything goes celebration, perhaps closer to the roots of the faire. Rev. Chumley, who performed in Eugene, OR, is also mentioned. The writing is a bit flat, although very well documented, but it picks up with the chapter on fiction featuring the faire. Although there is no mention of Mary Monika Palver' ...more
Barbara Bristow
Apr 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: social-history
I've been to the Renaissance Faire in Sterling Forest NY a number of times but never thought about where the faires came from. The first faire was in California (no surprise there), done as a fund raiser for a local public radio station (bit of a surprise there). The author ties in the history of faires with the rise in handicrafts and folk music, as well as looking at the people you meet at faires: the faire folk, the fans who come in costume, even faire-haters. There's even a link between fair ...more
Mar 29, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a very in depth look at the history of the Renaissance Faire. Somewhat dry reading, a big emphasis on the beginnings during the sixties in California.The "Faire" then proved a refuge for artist/artisan types, political non-conformists et al. I was hoping for a bit more "human interest" sort of study. As a research tool this book will prove valuable but doesn't make for light reading. I've worked at one of these festivals and feel the author could have spent a bit more time in the current ...more
Jan 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I was eager to read this book because of my family's many years at the Renaissance and Dickens Faires and so I liked getting to dabble back in that world. The chapter about the history of the faire was pretty disappointing because it felt overly anthropological, with the author was taking everything people were saying at face value, rather than digging into the motivations behind the remembered history. The last chapter, about the Faire in literature and popular culture was by far my favorite. O ...more
Oct 23, 2016 rated it liked it
This gives the novice Ren faire goer the beginnings of the Ren faire, as well as every component of the faire. There is even a chapter on the Ren faire haters and Renissance Faires in fiction. I think the thing I liked best is that every chapter is self contained, so if you only wanted read about the jousters, you could do that easily. I would have liked the author to touch more on the SCA and the Pennsic War participants, but maybe with the next book.
Amanda Clay
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting! I had no idea the Ren Faire was so tied up in the American Socialist and Workers' movements. I also had no idea that Penn and Teller got their start on the circuit. Fun and readable despite its scholarly bent, some of the most interesting info comes in the chapters about sexuality and Ren Faires, and also the 'outsiders' views and perceptions of the Faire and its people. Worth a look! ...more
Jen Grover
Sep 03, 2016 rated it liked it
So much more information than really necessary...... Yet so much more than I anticipated. Save it for a counterculture studies class or a non-rainy/non - hurricane weekend..... And have another book around to distract you.
Elizabeth Ferry
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great background on how Renaissance Faires orginated and evolved. Interesting fact: Penn and Teller got their start at a Faire.
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Best book I've read about the Faires and what life was really like at them and in the surrounding counterculture world of the day. Highly recommended! ...more
Laurie Post
Jan 27, 2013 rated it liked it
It was fun to reminisce. I was at faire from almost the beginning. However it didn't hold my interest. ...more
Laura Hodgins
May 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Really interesting history of the first ren faires in CA and then across the country, counterculture, hippies, music, all kinds of interesting tidbits and some thought about what it all means.
Geri Hoekzema
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting and informative history of the Ren faire movement. I was surprised at a few omissions - Peter Beagle's Folk of the Air, possibly the not only the first work of fiction starring the world of Medieval reenactment but also definitely the best one - is barely mentioned. But it was largely a satisfying trip that made me wish I'd been around back when Ren faires started, before they became overly commercial and were therefore still magical. ...more
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked the bits of it I did get to read, but I had to return it to the library before I could read the whole thing.
Rea Scott
Nov 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Reads more like a very long essay than a book. Informative and well researched.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is easily one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. I learned so much about early American counterculture and the influence that was/is the American renaissance faire.
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Feb 05, 2013
Kath Estacio
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Dec 15, 2012
Rachel Chalmers
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Jul 09, 2014
Erik Jay Weber
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Sep 11, 2016
William Paley
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Nov 09, 2015
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“If theme parks, with their pasteboard main streets, reek of a bland, safe, homogenized, whitebread America, the Renaissance Faire is at the other end of the social spectrum, a whiff of the occult, a flash of danger and a hint of the erotic. Here, they let you throw axes. Here are more beer and bosoms than you’ll find in all of Disney World. —Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times” 0 likes
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