As I write this we've done two weekends of the 6th Annual New Jersey Renaissance Faire - which means, barring school days, 24 Renaissance faire days have been had in the Garden State since it started in 2010 - four per year. When you think about it, that's not that many. Even after this weekend is done - weekend THREE, the first time the Faire has done this - that will still only bring us up to 26. Twenty-six? That doesn't even fill up a February! And yet ...
And yet, the New Jersey Renaissance Faire has grown so much over these six seasons. I feel I can comment on it, at least a little bit, because I was there from the first festival day. True, I'm not John or Phil or TJ or Andy, but that Faire has been a part of me since I started performing Shakespeare as an independent act in earnest. I was there in 2010 when we opened, just a shoe-string little Renaissance Faire with a chess board painted on what has become the Duke's Grove stage (not at the amphitheater); not nearly enough vendors to fill up the place; heck, your friendly, neighbourhood Shakespeare even forgot his costume at home (3 hours north of the Faire in Scranton, PA) the morning of the first show. But it was still magical.
As I recall, that first day the Joust - which should have taken at least 20 minutes - only went for about five. What do you do? Actors weren't ready for the day's end show, the schedule declared that it would be at least half an hour before it came to pass, but an audience was filling up seats (hay bales) in front of the Duke's Grove stage. Well, if your name is Mike Crellin, TJ Miller, or "Willy Shakespeare," you take that stage & start the most random-ever of random variety shows. We were a three-headed monster of a variety show host that day, bringing up the Mad Mechanicals again and again, to perform 3-act Shakespeare or a silly song, the newly formed Pieces of 8 sang oh-so-beautifully, and yours truly got a taste of what it meant to be a variety show host - the next week it was put on the schedule OFFICIALLY as The Bard's Variety Show (now Shakespeare's Variety Show). Independent acts aplenty performed songs and bits, cast members told jokes & did stupid peasant tricks, and the audience loved us for it. As a group, we collectively picked up the gauntlet thrown down to us by the fates and ran with it, showing that with a bit of pluck, a smidge of talent, and the cliff of the abyss right behind you, you can make a show.
That's one of my favorite Faire memories.
And now, gentle reader, I invite you to come make more memories with us on the final weekend of the Sixth Annual New Jersey Renaissance Faire. I'm pretty sure that the final joust will last longer than 5 minutes, but the Variety Show is still just as zany. Plus, I'll be wearing my own costume, not be dressed as Zorro.