The masses are assembling for dinner in the king's lushly decorated quarters. Ten-foot puppets wander the grounds, while a crowd gathers around an enormous dragon hatching from an egg. There is absolutely nothing unusual about this at the annual Baycrafters Renaissance Fantasy Fayre.
The jousting gets under way again this Labor Day weekend, as role-playing enthusiasts descend on the Huntington Reservation in Bay Village, where men pretend to do battle, women pretend they're wenches, and all pretend iron clothing is comfortable.
Festival-goers who prefer a less participatory experience can soak up the fourteenth-century charm without having to don chain mail. When not trained on the buxom maidens, their eyes might drift to the oversized puppets of Portland, Maine's Shoestring Theater. The company, performing on stilts in gargantuan papier-mâché heads, mills through the crowd sprinkling bon mots and sensations of vertigo. As mondo puppeteer Jean Parker says: "You get to say things you'd never say without a puppet head on."
Costume designer Animal X, who has worked with Madonna and Kiss, also offers a respite for wandering eyes: She'll portray a fairy queen assisting the birth of the aforementioned dragon. While a midwifing fairy queen may seem too fanciful for a Renaissance fair, Jeff Mincey (half of the two-man dragon) sees nothing wrong with it.
"All of this stuff was real to people in that time," he says, adding that an authentic period-crowd would probably mistake the play for reality and attempt to stone the dragon, not to mention the various lepers and ogres traipsing about the grounds.
"Most of the kids still believe the dragon is real," Mincey points out, unintentionally offering a metaphor for the whole fair: Being true to the time period is not the point. In fact, in recent years, organizers have even begun to phase out the "Renaissance" moniker altogether and stick to a more loosely defined "fantasy" motif, attempting to bring the fair back to the juried art show that started it all. The idea was for participants and visitors to be creatively inspired in a vein befitting the spirit of the Renaissance age. Or, in the case of the many battles to be waged each day, in the spirit of the World Wrestling Federation.
The Renaissance Fantasy Fayre runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday at the Huntington Reservation, 28795 Lake Road in Bay Village. Admission is $7, $5 children and seniors; call 440-871-6543.
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