Saturday, September 30, 2017

Still Life with Robin: A Dress-up Party

Maryland Renaissance Festival
by Peggy Robin

The Maryland Renaissance Fair, back for its 40th year, has been open on weekends since the last weekend in August and will remain open through the third weekend in October (see for dates and tickets). Every year the fair brings performances such as jugglers, sword swallowers, tightrope walkers, plays (“Twenty Minute MacBeth” is a perennial favorite); knights in full armor jousting with wooden lances; as well as Maypole dancers, Celtic harpists, stllt-walkers, acrobats dangling from silks, puppet shows, magic shows, all manner of musical acts, comedy acts, pirate shows – the acts are all found here: -- and in a schedule grid layout here (PDF):

In the market for something handmade? This is the place to talk to glass blowers, leather toolers, blacksmiths, weavers, wood carvers, stonecutters, armorers, goldsmiths and silversmiths….if there’s an old craft still practiced in an old-fashioned way, you’ll find the craftsperson here and happy to talk to you.

But most fun of all, the Renaissance Fair is a one great big dress-up party. You’ll see all kinds of people clothed in garments from Shakespeare’s England to Botticelli’s Florence. The Fair employs costumed actors to play King Henry VIII and the ladies of his court, who wander through the fairgrounds appropriately garbed in sumptuous velvets, with doublets and capes, gloves and hose, and very elaborate hats! – all while inwardly praying for a cold snap in September. And you have never seen so many women in corsets as you will see at the Renaissance Fair – so much lacing and stiff bodices nipping in waists and pushing up bosoms. So many ladies who look like they belong on the front cover of a historical romance, just waiting for the gamekeeper’s roguish son to meet them in the misty heather. Lots of men in kilts, too.

Not that everyone is costumed in things that Renaissance lords and ladies (or rogues and wenches) would have worn back in the day. You will also see people costumed as Vikings (too early) and 18th century highwaymen (too late) and Dickensian characters (way too late) and steampunk figures out of some science fiction/fantasy world that never was, and all kinds of people dressed up in bits and pieces from several different time periods all at once. And people who don’t seem to be from any identifiable time period, including the present, but who just present themselves in something colorful and kooky, like devil horns, or fairy wings. 

If you want to join in the costumed fun but don’t want to create your own look, you can always rent when you get there:

Want a little music to put you in the mood for a visit to the Renaissance Faire? Try this clip from The Larksong Ensemble:

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays. 

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