Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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« Where can I find recorded samples of filk online? | Main | How can I become the sort of performer that musicians want to accompany? »
Sunday
Apr292007

What is an "Interfilk wench"?

From Erica Neely:

"An Interfilk wench is someone who acts as a runner at an Interfilk auction; the term is not gender-specific – we’ve had some great male wenches! The wench’s official job is to show the item to anyone interested in bidding in it. The wench’s unofficial job is to entice people into bidding, generally through some kind of schtick. (Note that sometimes the schtick is cooked up with the help of the auctioneer – there’s interplay between the wenches and the auctioneers, just as there is between the wenches and the audience.)

A lot of wenches dress up, but that’s entirely up to you. Wenching is much more about having the right attitude than about the clothes you wear; be comfortable about how you look and have fun! One important thing to remember, though, is to respect people’s comfort zones. When you’re doing schtick, make sure that both you and the person receiving it are comfortable with what you’re doing – there may be some people you know you can tease further than others, and there may be some people who give off clear “Please don’t sit on my lap” vibes. Respect that. Don’t do (or wear) anything to make yourself or the bidder uncomfortable. (Or, for that matter, the audience. This is a family show; you shouldn’t be doing anything too outrageous.)

You’ll see a lot of the same people wenching, at least if you go to OVFF or FKO. By this point, we’ve sort of developed a crack Interfilk Auction team. You get Judith Hayman organizing the actual giving-of-item-to-wenches part of it. Bill Roper, Steve Simmons, John Hall, and Mark Bernstein are our usual auctioneers (except at OVFF, where we have a professional auctioneer in order to comply with Ohio law.) Persis Thorndike and Trace Hagemann usually handle the record-keeping (and money-collecting!) part of it. And pretty often you’ll see me being head wench and helping Judith keep the flow of items and wenches running smoothly. You’ll also frequently see the same people wenching (notably Kathleen Sloan, who is known to bid against herself and to wench people she’s bidding against.)

Does this mean new people can’t wench? Of course not! We’re happy to have new people. But one thing people should realize is that there is an ideal number of wenches for an auction, and that number hovers around 5. Fewer than that and the wenches’ feet will fall off – you need a break occasionally, at the very least so you can give your item to Persis and Trace and go get a new one! Much more than that, however, and you end up trying to herd too many cats; it’s hard to maintain order and keep things flowing smoothly if you’re trying to manage 12 wenches! This is why Judith and I are trying to get people to let us know in advance if they’re interested in wenching; this avoids people showing up to the auction expecting to wench and getting upset because they can’t.

That is, in fact, one of the biggest problems we’ve been having lately. Wenching is a service – it is a way of contributing to Interfilk. MEW was one of the first people who started doing a lot of schtick with it, and I picked it up when I started wenching. (I actually started wenching because I was a poor graduate student and couldn’t afford to bid on anything; I figured that this was at least some way I could contribute.) The ultimate goal of wenching, therefore, should be ensuring that the auctions run smoothly (and profitably!) and are fun for the people attending them. Wenching is not really about the wench. If there are a lot of volunteers for the auction and we can’t use all of them…people should be thrilled! It means that lots of people are trying to help Interfilk! It doesn’t mean we hate you personally or there’s a conspiracy to keep you from wenching, honest. So if you’re interested in wenching, the thing I recommend above all else is to volunteer nicely and to be willing to take the answer “I’m sorry, but we have enough people this time” without making a fuss. If we can’t use you at one con, there’s a good chance that we’ll try to make space for you in the future, knowing that you’re interested; don’t give up!"

From Judith Hayman:

"Erica has distilled most of our 2-3 years of discussing this into this entry. I would like to reinforce that ATTITUDE is everything. The object is not to show off a pretty face or body but to show off the item being auctioned. It’s sales. The auction should be about as X-rated as Bambi. Wenching is also about acting. It means letting go of your self-image and unbending a little to get into the part. We don’t ask you to wench because we think you’re gorgeous and will make the audience pant, but because you have a twinkle in your eye that makes people laugh and thereby makes the item seem even more attractive than it is — despite being offered by, for example, an overweight middle-aged lady like myself."


Related pages:

What is Interfilk?

Reader Comments (1)

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May 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

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