Hoggetowne Medieval Faire
Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 2:03 a.m.
Friends! Countrymen! Romans!
Hoggetowne Medieval Faire
The glorious, the magnificent, the bejeweled Emperor Fabulous I commands you by decree to battle!
Heed the call, take up thy sword and smite thine enemy with terrible fury. Let their cries echo from the coliseum as their blood runneth down thy toga.
And afterwards, please do visit the vendors' tents before you jump back in your internal combustion chariot.
It's time for the 2007 - er, make that MMVII - Hoggetowne Medieval Faire. Presented by the City of Gainesville, the XXIst annual festival starts Saturday at the Alachua County Fairgrounds, providing fairgoers a chance to travel back in time and enjoy medieval living, minus the pestilence, for two consecutive weekends. There are rides, games, vendor's tents and more medieval costumes than you can shake a giant turkey leg at (which the fair also offers).
Of course, each year the feather in the Faire's cap is the Living Chess Board. This year's theme pits King Arthur's Court in a battle for freedom against the imperial Roman Empire.
Before they step on the board, the actors endure six months of training, learning how to use their weapons, choreographing their fights and developing their characters.
"It's hard finding a balance between getting the characters developed to the extent the actors want and getting the fights just right," Director Michael Kelleher says.
That struggle is more difficult this year because the theme of the Faire does not follow a traditional fairy tale formula.
"We're interested to see how the audience takes it," says assistant director Callie Rae Force (as in, "May the Force be with you"). "There might be some real history buffs who will see King Arthur fighting the Romans and say, 'Wait, this couldn't have happened.' "
Kelleher explains that the show is as historically accurate as possible while still keeping it funny.
"Our motto is entertainment before historical accuracy," he says, adding, "At the same time, it's put on by the Department of Cultural Affairs, so we want people to learn something too."
King Arthur vs. the Romans wasn't the first idea proposed for the Living Chess Board. Others included King Arthur vs. the Vikings - which Kelleher says was "just hilarious" - and some more traditional tales.
"We weren't expecting this one to be chosen," he says. "It was very dark, very evil, very menacing."
However, he notes that the actors have injected humor and levity into the heavy script, with a lot of help from Alex Mrazek, who plays Fabulous I.
Mrazek, who is almost finished with a Theatre degree from the University of Florida, says that the Faire has forced him to hone his improvisational chops.
"I'm so used to a script," he says. "Here, it's like, if you feel like saying the lines today, then that's great."
He says he especially enjoys the challenge of getting the audience involved instead of just acting out a script in front of them.
Audience involvement goes beyond the chess board. The actors walk around the fair entertaining the crowds all day long.
"You're walking around all day, eight or nine hours, in character," says Ian Tullis, who plays King Arthur.
"During dress rehearsal, we stay in character even during the breaks to get used to it."
In the end, the rehearsals do not prepare the actors for the adrenaline rush of performing in front of an audience.
"Everybody has a blast at rehearsal," says Scott West, who plays General Septimus. "But when you get to show time, it's a whole other world."
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article