Renaissance Festival brings wenches and peasants aplenty

 

For six weeks, lovers of history will be able to travel back in time 500 years. Just be sure to avoid the ‘Wheel of Death.’

renaissance fest

By Michael Finch II | mfinch@MiamiHerald.com

The village of Kegsworthy is only a few acres in size, somewhere on the 16th-century Florida peninsula.

Townspeople roam freely, and artisans peddle hand-blown glass and embossed leather. Minstrels sing in the background.

At least, that is the tapestry of medieval lore and history weaved together by organizer Bobby Rodriguez for the Florida Renaissance Festival in modern-day Deerfield Beach, starting this weekend.

The festival will last for six consecutive weekends.

“We try anything and everything that will take you back in time,” said Rodriguez, now in his 22-year coordinating the festival. “[Performers] have to be in costume and they cannot walk around in anything that will break the facade.”

There aren’t many lords and ladies of Kegsworthy. But for what the city square lacks in noblemen, it more than makes up for it in peasants, mischievous clowns and washing wenches.

The village, which is rife with fairs, guilds and illuminated manuscripts, takes about 18 days to construct and another 10 to cart away, Rodriguez said. There are a couple of corners that are for adults and children, respectively.

Other entertainment will include a 34-foot pirate ship, a fabric maze and twice-daily jousts by knights in full-body armor.

“If you want to talk to the villagers and talk about daily life — you can,” said James Weber, one of the festival’s artistic directors.

Sure, South Florida has seen its share of 16th-Century villages, bar wenches and ale, except Rodriguez assures fans of the Renaissance period that there will be something new and different at this fair.

“There are a lot of people that say to me ‘Bobby, this must be easy for you at this point,’” said Rodriguez, who also organizes a Renaissance Fair at Cauley Square Park in South Miami-Dade. “And I say ‘No, it has gotten harder.’”

The challenge: try to create an atmosphere that keeps even the most loyal fans of the Renaissance coming back.

The answer to this year’s call: a wooden apparatus called the “Wheel of Death.” The man who will mount the contraption will traverse one of the wheels as it spins. Cirque du Soleil performers used one such device in the show “Kooza.”

Rodriguez could only describe it as a hamster cage on one end that spins. The performer will be in an open-sided cage and when it spins around, he can fall out.

Maybe you just have to see it.

Juan Ponce de Leon will be there, too, as the festival takes on an explorer’s theme during the fifth weekend, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conqueror discovering and christening Florida.

Fair-goers will also be entertained by a retooled version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The 45-minute play is dubbed “A Midsummer Night’s Musical,” and will be performed twice daily. It has classic Shakespearean lines and comedic musical numbers.  A more traditional rendition of Shakespeare may have been lost on many, Weber said. The simpler the better.

“Life is difficult enough,” he said. “When you come to something like this, you should laugh. There are some who want to just lose themselves — something we highly encourage.”

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