Staging a fair fight


Trenton Mize as Sir Gregory flips Kevin Thornhill as Lancelot during the Gainesville Community Playhouse Thieves Guild's final dress for the Living Chess Board at the fairgrounds on Sunday.

LEE FERINDEN/ Special to the Sun
Published: Monday, January 27, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 27, 2003 at 1:07 a.m.
What's this? Wenches wielding swords? What would King Arthur make of this violation of the code of chivalry?
Who knows, maybe he would like a good cat fight. And that's some of what time travelers who attend the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, which starts Saturday, will see when the Thieves Guild presents its show four times a day.
Sunshine Andrei, this year's producer of the show, acknowledged at Sunday's final dress rehearsal that some historical license is taken.
"Authentic? We kind of do what the movies do - we go more for the entertainment. We incorporate as much authenticity as possible but don't sacrifice the entertainment value," Andrei said. "Women didn't really fight back then."
The annual fair features performances, jousting contests, games, animals and the sale of all things medieval - clothing, books, weapons, suits of armor.
The Thieves Guild is a branch of the Gainesville Community Playhouse. When the actors are not performing they will be walking around the fair in character.
Auditions were held in September. About 75 hopefuls tried out for the 61 roles. Some are into the medieval life, sort of an early history version of the Civil War re-enactors. Some are martial arts enthusiasts who enjoy playing with the weapons. Some are into role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Some just want to act.
The audition includes an improvisation bit and a fight scene. Anyone who has watched one of the the guild's performances can attest that an English accent - try as they might - will not make or break the audition.
"Safety is so important in what we do. The fight audition is to see how their feet move, their hand-eye coordination. These weapons can do some damage. They are not sharpened, but serious injuries can happen," Andrei said. "We encourage our performers to do accents because the more you do it the better you become. Usually, your first year is kind of shaky."
Scriptwriter Mandy Foote said this year's production has four scenes - including two in which chess matches with humans as the pieces are acted out.
The production is about King Arthur and the court of Camelot. The productions alternate from year to year between a King Arthur theme or a Robin Hood story.
Not everyone is in a battle role. Courts had jesters after all, so some of them were cast. And the one person with the most consecutive years in the productions, Shawn Bauldree, is a haggish troll wife.
She's got a green face, teeth that are horribly bad even by Austin Powers standards and a bosom so big it could smother the British isle from Dover to the Scottish Highlands, with a bottom to match.
"I've been with it since Hoggetowne started, since 1985," she said. "I've been doing other fairs. I love it. I went to my first renaissance fair when I was 14. I took theater in college. I just enjoy doing this."
Linda Piper of the Gainesville Department of Cultural Affairs said the fair will run Saturday and Sunday, and Feb. 7-9. She said about 11,000 school students will attend Feb. 7.
The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. It is held at the Alachua County Fairgrounds on NE 39th Avenue.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@ gvillesun.com.

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