Sunday, October 19, 2008

Connecticut Renaissance Faire 2008

CT Renaissance Faire vendorsMany of you, especially those who know me personally, might be surprised to know that I'm not a big fan of anything fantasy, medieval, or renaissancey. Sure, I enjoy books and movies in such a setting, and I love Dungeons & Dragons, but the fantasy genre and those time periods aren't really selling points for me.

Thus, when my significant other discovered that the Connecticut Renaissance Faire was coming up and was within driving distance of us, she got all excited and started making plans while I tried to make myself as small as possible so that she would forget I existed and go without me.

I exaggerate. A little. But I have vague recollections of attending a Ren Faire when I was in middle school, and while I by no means hated it, I seem to remember that I would have been just as content being anywhere else.

Incidentally, a female dragged me along to that one, too. Between forcing me to read and taking me to Ren Faires, I swear that women are somehow trying to control my life.

But I digress.

I didn't want to go to this Ren Faire. I'm not wild about the time period itself or the food or the clothes or the music or the... anything. Beyond that, there was a fair amount of driving involved, it was money that I hadn't been budgeting for, and it would require me to be more outgoing than I feel comfortable being (lots of interaction and audience participation; distinct possibility of getting dirty, which I loathe).

Still, there we were on Sunday, driving in the direction of Hebron, CT, with she in boots and dresses and a corset and other Renaissancey gear that I can't spell, and I in my cargo pants, sneakers, t-shirt, and denim overshirt.

I told her in advance that she was the one who wanted to go, so she would be in charge of where we went and what we did. I would just tag along, regardless of what we did, as I had already conceded that I wasn't going to have any fun and thus should not attempt to voice my own opinion about doing things I might potentially consider to be fun.

In case you're unfamiliar with Ren Faires, here's a quick overview of what to expect, at least of the one we attended:

CT Renaissance Faire vendors- Merchants hiding under tents, vending everything from pewter figurines to authentic period garb to swords to artwork to woodwork to incense to lemonade and fried apple cider doughnuts. Oh, and turkey legs the size of an infant. No matter how much you budget, you will somehow run out of money.

- Actors dressed as commoners, beggars, gravediggers, bards, knights, clergy, and royalty wandering the faire, invading your personal space and interacting with you in character, usually in a humorous manner. They will encourage you to give them money.

- A reasonably high percentage of average fairgoers dressed up in costume, with a very small percentage being entirely period-accurate. I might add that, in costume or not, my sense of fashion prohibts me from ever being period-accurate. Also, costumes require money.

- Performances such as jousts, sing-alongs, and mud shows, in which the performers put on a skit in a pit of mud (a pit skit, if you will) and, in most cases, do their utmost to get as many audience members as muddy as possible. Oh, the joy. Additionally, these performers will invariably ask you for money.

- Activities such as costume contests, training to duel with wooden swords, axe throwing, and getting your wallet stolen.

- Rain. We were graciously spared this when we went, but I have no doubt this was a fluke.

- Sexual innuendos. Everywhere. If you go for five minutes without hearing a bawdy joke, you have wandered too far away from the fairgrounds, or else you have mistaken the clothes of a certain group of people for Renaissance costumes and arrived at an Amish village.

Given everything there was to do and see, surely I enjoyed myself at least a little bit, right?

Right! For two shows. And some of the shopping, too.

First was a performance by the Duelists, two guys who demonstrated the steps to proper dueling (Step 1: Looking good!) while exchanging bawdy jokes and insults. The two actually dueled on stage with swords, axes, and small children.

CT Renaissance Faire Duelists showNo joke. Look more closely at Bandana Boy in the picture here and you might pick up the vibe that he's about to charge the stage.

That's exactly what happened, just before their finale, in which they were to put together all of the steps they had laid out and have one big duel.

Swords + small child = lawsuit.

Now, the Duelists had invited the audience to heckle them (and in return, they would heckle back), so they gracefully made fun of the child and his mother when he first attempted to charge the stage, most likely hoping that she would get the hint, collect her child in one piece instead of many, and leave.

This did not happen. Her getting the hint, that is.

The valiant duo stepped up the offensiveness of their jokes in an attempt to wound the mother enough to get her to leave. Or something like that. They took to cracking their whips as they slowly advanced toward the child. They were doing everything to avoid breaking character and outright telling the woman and her kids to go home. (Yes, kids. There were two of them out there in the aisle.)

Needless to say, this entire ordeal derailed the performance, but they somehow managed to get through it all, though not as smoothly as anyone would have hoped. Still, though, a great time.

Oh, and I loved the part where one of the performers made a big Star Wars reference and was talking about Obi-Wan Kenobi's green lightsaber... when I and several others shouted, "IT'S BLUE!!!" to which he responded with something along the lines of, "Wow, you guys just managed to out-geek some guys in costume at a Renaissance Faire!"

The second show I really enjoyed was by a magician, Zoltan the Adequate. Was the show BRILLIANT? AMAZING?

...No, just adequate.

Or so he trained us to say. He also trained us to repeat, using ALL CAPS, words like DANGER! EXCITEMENT! MAGIC! and OOOOH!!! when he mentioned them in the performance.

I was strolling around some time after the show and was within earshot of another performance, and I amused a nearby vendor as I joined the distant audience members in shouting out "EXCITEMENT!" "MAGIC!" and "OOOOH!!!"

Zoltan's show was a wonderful mix of magic and humorous performance; we were just as often watching a magic show as we were a stand-up comedian.

I'm mighty squeamish, so I got squidgy about the final trick involving sharp objects and potentially dismembered hands, but you just can't help but appreciate a guy who can swallow the flames from one baton and ignite another with his fire breath.


The other shows, however, I could have done without. I was nervous throughout the entire mud show that my clothes, and subsequently my day, would be ruined by mud. Though that thankfully never occurred, the show was something of a letdown for me.

The performers attempted to tell about the history of England from its origins to the pinapple of its existence (er... I think you meant pinnacle...) with the assistance of nothing more than mud and sticks. The jokes were often predictable or old (except for the pineapple bit, which somehow never got old to me), but we ran into two of the performers outside of the show, and one of them in particular was a riot. There were funny moments, yes, but I never got very into it.

CT Renaissance Faire Trial and DunkeThen there were shows that I just wanted to get out of. First was Trial and Dunke, in which actors and audience members were brought up to the stage to be punished for whatever ridiculous infraction they were charged with, most popularly by being dunked into a big vat of (hopefully) water.

The show was slow, most of the audience members were horrendously uncooperative, and by that point I had heard ten times over any of the raunchy jokes they were trying to make. I am told that it was a lackluster dunking show and that they are normally more entertaining.

However, one very articulate and energetic little girl took the stage for her punishment, in which she walked around on all fours, mooed like a cow, and stole my heart. And things just got all better.

...And then things got bad. The final show we saw before the final show (think about that one!) was by the Bawdy Buccaneers, a show that made me as uncomfortable as the proverbial doughnut at a fat camp.

My wench (significant other) wanted to go because she wanted to hear some traditional faire songs, ones that are often a bit racy. They advertised the show as an adult show, not for kids, but given the nature of everything at the faire, that's the kind of disclaimer that's about as necessary as a sign at Trial and Dunke that reads, "Persons dunked into the large vat of water may get wet."

As it turns out, the Bawdy Buccaneers weren't kidding. They took getting wet to a whole new level.


I'll spare you all the graphic details, but I wanted to go home. They performed one or two of the traditional songs, which gave hope to my wench that things would get better, but nothing was worth sitting through that. Their music was from a wide range of eras, including a modern tune or two and their one period song.

Just keep reading and don't think about it too hard.

I have no doubt that most of the audience remained there because they enjoyed the show and liked seeing certain audience members get singled out for public humiliation, and I won't take that away from them (besides, I wouldn't want to), but I and my super-tolerant wench walked out by the time they started butchering the lyrics to the Eagles' "Take it Easy," and I'm sure you can image where that one went.

The conclusion of the faire took place under a big tent, though no elephants, clowns, or flaming hoops were involved. Most of the performers who had shows throughout the day came back to do one last short skit, almost all of which involved music and possibly dancing. It was a good sampling of everything, but all I wanted to do was go home.

Actually, I had wanted to go home by around 3:00 or 3:30 PM. This ended at 6 PM. We had been there since about 10:30 AM. We had to get up around 6:30 AM to get there in time.

And then we still had to drive home.

My suggestion to you? If anything I described sounded at all appealing, check it out. Just make sure that you don't leave all of the decisions up to your wench.

And with all the stuff there is to buy, is it possible to bring an amount of money that is more than enough for your needs?

No, just adequate.

In conclusion, walking trees. Yeah, I said, "walking trees."

CT Renaissance Faire walking tree costume CT Renaissance Faire walking tree costume


AJG said...

Well, thank goodness there were no clowns...

kitten said...

you really didn't like it?
we'll have to try harder next year. (i was a noble lady in creme and blue dress, light gray cloak)
there's always next year! <3