Fellowship of the ring

Once upon a time, a lonely young maiden pined all night and all day for true love to come her way. She was Rebecca (played by Rebecca Blum at the Mountain Renaissance Adventure Faire), the daughter of the kindly Baron of Tidmarsh (Stewart MacWilliam), who loathed seeing his daughter in such a lamentable state.

To ease her suffering, the Baron decided to hold a festival and challenge the most honorable suitors in the realm to come vie for his daughter’s hand. For everyone’s entertainment, he also invited dancers, musicians and comedians — even a troupe of actors. Only the best would do.

But this is a fairy tale, where nothing’s ever that easy.

“Rebecca actually falls in love with John Middleton [Jonathan Ayers], one of the players in the acting troupe her father hires to entertain the town,” explains local-event organizer Linda Jean Marlowe, who spoke to Xpress in the harried final days of preparation for the two-day event.

“We build up that story line all day long,” Marlowe adds.

And build it does. Thanks in no small part to the success of The Lord of the Rings films, Renaissance fairs are no longer merely stigmatized as safe outings for Middle Ages-obsessed geeks. Renfairs, as they’re known to insiders, have moved beyond the novelty realm to become the knights errant in the kingdom of fund-raisers. The proceeds from this year’s Mountain Renaissance Adventure Faire will go to a variety of nonprofit and charity organizations, including event host AB-Tech (in the form of a scholarship gift).

Coming complete with such uncommon entertainments as belly dance (provided at the Mountain Renaissance event by local troupe Baraka Mundi) and other forms of gypsy magic, such as fire-eating and bed-of-nails stunts (courtesy of The Daring Douglasses of Pennsylvania), Renfairs are also a lighthearted link to a cultural history we Americans have left behind.

As always, the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronisms will be on hand at Mountain Renaissance to demonstrate the timeless art of armored butt-kicking. Still, event organizers know any Renfair worth its sword has to find its own unique way to stand out.

“We culminate the day in a living chess battle,” reveals Marlowe. “That’s our trademark. There have been differences between the characters in the show, and so we let them fight it out in the chess battle. We do audience participation to decide the outcome.”

For the fair’s major players, however, blurring the fantasy-reality line will yield potentially permanent repercussions.

“At the end of the show on Saturday, Rebecca and John get married,” Marlowe explains. “But when Rebecca and John get married at the Faire, they are actually getting married in real life.”

The Mountain Renaissance Adventure Faire takes place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, May 15 and Sunday, May 16 on the grounds of AB-Tech (340 Victoria Road). Tickets cost $8/adults, $6/children (kids under 3 get in free). Two-day passes are also available. For more information, visit www.rennfaire.org, or call (828) 775-6723.


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