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Norman amid coronavirus: Medieval Fair of Norman moves online, engages Renaissance fans nationwide

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jousting 5

"Sir Joseph" rides his horse towards his oppenent during the jousting event at the 43rd Annual Medieval Fair of Norman April 5, 2019.

A former OU student is organizing livestream entertainment events in support of the Medieval Fair of Norman performers who are currently unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Renaissance fair performer Elaysha Wachter heard the Medieval Fair of Norman was canceled, she said she organized the livestream — the Wandering, Wonderous, Wireless (WWW) Renaissance Faire — to allow the festival to continue. During the stream, links to various performers’ merchandise stores, PayPals, and Cash Apps appear on the screen. The audience can buy from the performers shops and tip their favorite artists. 

Wachter said the festival is live streamed through the virtual fair’s Facebook page and features Celtic folk music, comedic renditions of Shakespeare by puppets and various storytelling performances.

Following the Norman closure, Wachter said numerous other states, like Florida and California, canceled their festivals as well.

“People are being laid off, people are panicking and worrying about how they're going to pay their bills,” Wachter said.

Wachter, who works as an onstage storyteller, said it was difficult to see her friends hurting and losing their incomes. 

“It was a pretty big blow...My heart hurt,”  she said. 

Wachter said the virtual event has stretched further than she ever imagined. What started out as an event to help Norman performers has evolved into a nationwide extravaganza. The festival now includes performers from across Oklahoma, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

Wachter came up with the idea to host the festival online, but said she couldn’t have built it up to this caliber without the help of her friend and performer Lara Magyar-Groom, the technology director of the event.

“Neither of us have previous management experience, (but we are) passionate about putting out the content for patrons and performers,” Wachter said

Wachter said she performs as “Black Lips” Bonny Moffatt, a character who insists she is not a pirate, but who is most definitely a pirate. She said she hopes the livestream offers the performers a way to maintain their income during the pandemic and inspires people outside of the medieval scene to check it out. 

“People are consuming art at a greater rate than they've been able to (in the past)...and this is something new to experience,” Wachter said.

The show plans to livestream every Sunday for the foreseeable future. This Sunday’s theme is pirates, titled “Rogues and Royals.”

The show streams from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday on Facebook and YouTube.

Clips from previous shows, like last weekend's virtual Norman Medieval Fair, are available on Facebook.

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