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Maryland Renaissance Festival Goes Beyond Plays And Pageantry For 41st Season

Brad Dress
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August 22, 2017

Jousting knights, epic stage combat, sword swallowers and a new storyline following King Henry VΙΙΙ — the 41st season of the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville will offer a “little something for everybody,” according to Carolyn Spedden, the artistic director for the festival.

“It’s really good entertainment value,” Spedden said. “It’s one of those places where you can really spend six, seven hours easily and not see everything.”

New to this year’s fair is the jousting company DeBracey Productions. Spedden explained that the festival will have more jousting events like trick-riding and what she described as a “huge show” much bigger than what guests have seen in past years.

The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory will also make an appearance, performing famous plays such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a unique take on “The Tempest.”

New variety acts will include Dario El Gaucho, a world performer, and Mike Angelo. Kids will enjoy two pirate-themed shows, and adults can watch a stage combat comedy, “The Way of the Sword.”

But what is truly new this year, Spedden said, is the storyline she sculpted for this season’s events, which will carry its way onto the streets as musicians, courtiers and street performers contribute to the plot.

For 25 years, Spedden has written and supervised all the scripts for the festival. Every year, Renaissance teams around the country explore a different storyline from King Henry VΙΙΙ’s life history, as he is the “most interesting” king to dive into.

This year’s story will delve into the love triangle between Henry, his queen and Anne Boleyn, the king’s mistress, who sets his marriage, and England, into peril.

“We usually spend the longest time on the Anne Boleyn [storyline] because that seems to really resonate with people,” Spedden said. “People just find [Anne Boleyn’s] character very fascinating, and it is one that the audience really seems to enjoy and get into.”

But the acts and activities most likely to wow children are the jugglers, musicians, free pony rides and pirate ship playground.

And for the adults, she said, the ability to see the plays or shows, go to a pub and have a beer, eat delicacies, or shop and purchase arts and crafts will be a “never-ending” experience.

Returning this year is The Blades of Death — a stage combat comedy — and the Danger Committee, a comedic stunt act. Various variety performers will also return, such as sword swallower Johnny Fox, comedic juggler Jeffrey Daymont, and Acrobatrix, an acrobatic duo performing various dangerous feats of physical prowess.

Many others will also return, and Spedden insists that one day is not enough to enjoy all the festivities.

The special dates this year include a children’s weekend on August 26 and 27, when kids ages 7 to 15 will get in for free; a Celtic celebration weekend on September 16 and 17 with an Irish, Welsh and Scottish flare to the festivities; and a pirate weekend on September 30 and October 1, when guests are encouraged to dress as pirates and special performers will come onstage and into the streets.

Also included are a Shakespeare celebration on September 23 and 24, and Senior Day on September 4, when anyone aged 62 and older gets in for free.

The Renaissance Festival will premiere on August 26 and end on October 26. It opens every weekend during the timeframe, on Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day Monday.

The first three weekends will have a discounted rate of $19 for a one-person entry, but after that, guests must pay $25, with children under 6 getting a free ride.

Spedden said for those looking to go more often, a two-day pass or even a season pass — which are available on the website, www.rennfest.com - is the best option.

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