What Is A Persona?
In the SCA we take a medieval name. That is a plausible name that a medieval woman could have named her child. We do not take an actual famous historical person’s name, however; so while you could use the name Elizabeth Sharpe, you could not use the name Elizabeth Tudor.
Some people stop there, but others like to go on to develop a life history or background that is not a copy of an actual historical person’s life, but a fictional life that is still at least somewhat historically plausible. The amount of detail in one’s persona can vary wildly, from very little beyond just a name, to a highly detailed history including kinships with other people. All of these individuals can have a good time within the group!
Normally, one starts by picking a country or area where you are “from”, and a time period — some time and place that interests you. The SCA is based in Western Europe prior to 1600 AD. You will find people who play a persona from the Far East or the Middle East. These individuals are very welcome and make our game more interesting, but they are usually playing personae who are visitors. Their story is that they have come to the west for a reason.
Other things to think about when considering a persona are what kind of clothing does that country and time period wear? What kinds of activities were popular in that country and time? What attitudes are prevalent and what events are taking place? None of these things should be considered limitations on what you do in the SCA, however! It is perfectly normal to have a Norse name and persona, and yet prefer to wear German Landsknecht clothing when fighting, and enjoy Middle Eastern dancing.
So what does it mean to “play persona”? It means to talk using plain language that is not littered with “OKs, Wows, Cools,” but instead is littered with courtesies. To talk in such a way that doesn’t disturb the illusion of our medieval world. To dress in a way that helps our medieval illusion — no T-shirts with writing on them showing underneath the fighting tabbard, no can of Pepsi in your hand (put the Pepsi in a period looking mug instead.) Keeping the more glaring modern things hidden discretely away as much as possible. And when having a conversation, don’t discuss computers, video games, or mowing the lawn — talk instead about medieval or SCA topics.
Playing persona also means addressing other people with the proper respect due their rank in the SCA. The SCA has both appointed offices and an award structure that is largely merit-based. It can be very complicated, but it is always considered polite to address someone as “m’lord” or “m’lady”!
This may sound hard, but the longer you are in the SCA, the more your conversations become more medieval quite naturally. People are generally not “in persona” at local meetings, but only play persona at events.
How Much of This Do I Have to Do?
To come to our meetings, you just have to show up! To come to an event, you should pick at least a medieval given name, and you must wear medieval clothes. Our hospitaler can help with loaner clothes at first, and also help you make or purchase your own. Our herald can help you pick out a name from practically any culture you’re interested in. It’s easy!