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Time Travel to the Renaissance Festival

Sep 02, 2011 05:59PM ● By Anonymous

The world is populated with heroes and villains, the rich and the poor, and the simple object in life is to find food, shelter, and live happily ever after. The day takes on a slower pace, as one listens to the songs of traveling bards, watches the antics of jugglers, and sparring swordsmen, and is tempted by the wares of traveling vendors selling magical potions, baubles, and trinkets.

Each year, a small opening in time occurs when you can pretend you are living in a fairytale. You can spend the day or every weekend for that matter, from the end of August through the third week of October, at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. This year, the festival is celebrating its 35th anniversary. The setting is England and the year is 1544, the 35th year of King Henry VIII’s reign.

Located in Crownsville, and consisting of a village known as Revell Grove, complete with wooded paths, open-seated theaters for performances, pubs, craft shops, and an open field surrounded by risers to watch the jousting competitions, one can pretend to be living in an earlier time, when a favorite dinner was a large smoked leg of turkey washed down with a quaff of ale.

“This year we are very excited and proud to announce that the Festival will produce the Shakespeare play, Hamlet,” says Artistic Director Carolyn Spedden. “This will be the largest Shakespeare production we have produced. It is directed by John Sadowsky, and Washington-based actor Jack Powers will play the title role.”

Mary Ann Jung, a local actress and history re-enactor has been part of the Festival for 32 years. She teaches history and Shakespearean language to the actors every year. “What I love about the Maryland Renaissance Festival are the people,” says Jung, “both behind the scenes and our patrons. Backstage, we’re lucky to be part of the only all-professional Renaissance festival in the country. We’re treated wonderfully and have very high standards for our cast. We have new shows every year so we don’t get into a rut, which keeps it challenging and fun. Other shows literally do the same things year after year. Good actors would get bored but Carolyn Spedden, the overall director, knew she had to keep things fresh to hold onto top talent. It makes things fresh for the audience, too.”

In honor of the 35th anniversary, the Festival will not be having specific themed weekends, but instead will put the focus on the anniversary celebration. There will, however, be various guest performers on specific weekends, in addition to the resident company of performers hired for the season to take on the roles of the royal family and various characters living in the village. Performers this year include: Mediaeval Baebe, from London, performing over Labor Day Weekend; Doktor Kaboom!, a comedy science-based show performing August 27th and 28th; The Dueling Fools performing weekends from August 27th through September 18th; an acrobatics company called Barely Balanced performing September 24th to October 2nd, and the Danger Committee performing weekends October 9th through the 24th.

The first thing you’ll notice, once you enter the realm of Revell Grove, is the presence of so many visitors in Renaissance attire—long skirts, laced bodices, high boots, flowered wreaths, and plumed hats. “We meet all types and ages of people,” says Jung, “and it’s terrific to find ways to make them happy and feel part of another world.” If you want to look like you are a longtime resident of Revell Grove, you can rent costumes after you arrive, or if you are a regular, you already own what you need and wear it every time you visit. If you have a fancy for tight braids, and you have the suitable long hair, there is a hairdresser who can braid your hair (or that of your daughter’s) to look like Maid Marian. There are plenty of shops selling handcrafted leather and crystals as well as finery, scents, and honey. A special play area for children includes a wooden pirate ship and, at any one time, there are several performances of music, magic, or theater to choose from. While all the performances are included in the price of admission, it’s easy to spend money on souvenirs along with food and drink—particularly on a warm day. Arrive early and plan on staying late. Visit the website at to learn about any ticket promotions or offers.