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RenFest: Where Theater Goes to Die
or, "Plague? We don't remember any plague..."
by kari (guest writer)   August 30, 2005

I'm pretty hateful, which is something a lot of people don't know about me. And there are few things that bring out such hate as a renaissance festival. I've spent time trying to narrow down my hatred to one or two aspects, but that's simply not possible.

I'm no history buff, so I have nothing to say on the topic of whether or not the costumes are accurate or in what year did people stop wearing fake tails attached to their backsides. To me it's troubling enough that there is a large population that, on weekends, will put on those fake tails. And as if that's not enough, they are attached with safety pins. Safety pins that are clearly visible. If you are going to go through that trouble, can you take a little bit of pride in your work? Just a little?

Each weekend has a particular theme, and my lucky theme was "Mid-East Mirage," which, loosely translated, means "anyone with a bra and flowing skirt can be a belly dancer." Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Our day began with a trip into a Hobbit Hole that led into an Enchanted Forest. I did not know that hiking would be involved and anyone who knows me knows that I am prone to bitching and whining in that situation. So I bitched and whined and left no more enchanted upon leaving than I was upon entering. However the hike offered the opportunity to hear some "rennies" (employees at the festival) discussing the marvels of genetics:

Peasant Girl to Brave Sir:
"Well I'm really good at calligraphy, and my dad is really good at calligraphy, too."

The wonders of genetics.

A true challenge offered by the Festival is trying to decide who the real rennies are - and that is difficult because so many patrons put on those corsets and those tights and unless they are accompanied by some middle aged man in a Bud Light t-shirt, it's a tough call to make.

More than once I overheard some paid rennies mocking the people who attend in costume, which begs the question: Need one be a trained professional to put on a getup that resembles Robin Hood? Can only paid folk be the ones with the fake (and inconsistent, I might add) accents?

According to one source who spent some time working the fest in his youth, there is the tendency with the ren staff to partake in some spousal trades. Which can only explain why the casting directors of the ABC reality series "Wife Swap" chose to camp there recently to audition people for the next season. Ewwww.

And where in the hell is the disease of that time? It wouldn't even need to be the plague, just any plague would suffice. Maybe a leper here, a wet hacking cougher there, but it appears that, in days past, everyone was quite healthy and not missing any eyes, teeth or body parts. They are liars.

The real trick to attending the fest is to just keep moving. Not often will you be approached if you are moving quickly with your eyes pointed at the ground, but the moment you stop, you are a target. It's just like a state fair, but the carnies have accents and call you "milady," which, truth be told, is what kept me from buying things from them. "Milady" was a deal breaker.

I'm sure they are good folk - not out to hurt anyone, just out to have a good time and to meet some sort of need that perhaps that 9-5 job doesn't offer.

But what a freak show. And honestly, there is not enough mead in the world to make me ever pay the entrance fee, and that's just to get in the door! That doesn't include the $4, 8 ounce cup of Arbor Mist Wine (a step above Boone's ... but not a big step), the $2.50 chocolate covered strawberry or even the $1 pickle (that comes from a five-gallon pail that probably cost $5 total).

Maybe I'm too desensitized. Maybe I've just seen too much in my 30 years to be entertained by grown people playing dress up. Maybe I'm a part of that born-and-bred on MTV generation that is not keen on historical re-enactments.

No. I think it's them. And if I see one more chain mail bra, someone will pay.

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