Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kenneth Cissna, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stacy Holman-Jones, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Giovanna Benadusi, Ph.D.


performance, performativity, communitas, festivalism, mythopoeia


This performance ethnography analyzes the means by which performers at Tampa, Florida‘s Bay Area Renaissance Festival constitute community and gender through performance. Renaissance Festivals are themed weekend events that ostensibly seek to allow visitors to experience life in an English Renaissance village. Beginning with the theoretical assumption that performance is constitutive of culture, community, and identity, and undergirded by David Boje‘s festivalism, Richard Schechner‘s restored behavior, Victor Turner‘s liminoid communitas and Judith Butler‘s performative agency, The Festival is explored as a celebratory community that engages in social change through personal transformation.

Employing reflexive ethnography and narrative as inquiry, Chapter Two catalogues and analyzes a broad range of festival performances, from stage acts and handcraft production, to participatory improvisation, dance, and song. Playful and liminoid, these performances invite participants to make performance commitments and mutually to produce community through participative performance, celebratory objects, and the surrender of personal space.

Chapter Three argues that performances of alternative masculinities at festival play out against the backdrop of R.W. Connell‘s heteronormative masculinities. These alternative performances break down social barriers, promote self-definition, and provide agency in the embodiment gendered experiences. Likewise, Chapter Four features Festival‘s feminine performances that reveal the community to be a ―wench‘s world‖ privileging Judith Butler‘s notion of performative agency in order to enable communities of difference. The Wench, the Queen, and the Pirate She- ing all embody feminine power and serve as archetypes of feminine narratives that privilege self-definition. This study demonstrates Festival to be a women-centered community that engages in a mythopoeia of feminist history.

Acknowledging Festival as a multi-vocal community of mythopoets, this ethnography significantly extends the work of previous research on Renaissance Festivals. Rather than focusing on Festival performances as attempts at historical ―authenticity,‖ this study reveals Festival‘s mythological stance and the means by which performers embody mythology and archetype to their own purposes. Moving away from an audience centered discussion of performance, this study demonstrates how individual performers, through personal transformation, become agents of change through performance.