But that’s not what Much Ado About Sebastopol is about.
It’s about something far more cool. It’s time travel. For $12 a day, it’s a two-day vacation to 450 years ago. Pretty good bang for the buck, you ask me.
The third annual MAAS Renaissance Faire—now expanded to two days—is a charitable benefit for the Sebastopol Education Foundation, benefiting local schools. It takes place this weekend, September 22 and 23, at Ives Park in Sebastopol.
Once upon a time in the misty past of the 1960s, the concept of a Renaissance Faire was born as an educational adventure: an immersion experience in Elizabethan England to bring the world and history of the time of Shakespeare (mostly a bit prior, actually) to life. The clothing, language, pastimes, culture, crafts, and intrigues of the day would be revealed in the re-creation of an English country fair, circa 1570-80. Rather than sitting at a comfortable remove from performers, patrons were surrounded by costumed actors being people of that time. It was colorful, loads of fun, and patrons came away knowing something of a time in history that laid the groundwork for much of our modern-day world.
And boy, was it successful.
So much so, in fact, that it became a very profitable idea, and—as will so often happen—those elements that appeared to be driving ticket sales began to take precedence over the initial purpose, which was to enable patrons to have fun while learning something. Those elements being, okay, let’s say it, tits and beer.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I like all three of those things.
However, when “Renfaires” became big-money, corporate-owned enterprises, those elements, um…came to the fore, and the amazing coolness of actually re-creating a voyage to another time got supplanted by crass, lowbrow entertainment. Pretty quickly, all sorts of stuff inappropriate to the period was allowed, patrons got the idea that the Faire was a costume party where you could wear anything, and goods for sale began featuring quite a lot of mass-produced crap. A long slide in all standards of quality had begun.
But then, into this howling wasteland of avarice, there strode a Man. And a Woman. With a Vision. (Probably several of both, I’m unclear on the specifics.)
Enter Rydell Downward, Claudia Laughter and an associated crowd of longtime Renaissance Faire performers who still carried the values of historicity, excellence in immersion theater, and overall Goodness and Virtue.
(Okay, Goodness, anyway. They’ll probably read this.)
Founders of the Guild of St. George, these folks take their costuming, history, and craft as performers seriously. And get this: for the first time, at Much Ado About Sebastopol, they can actually do a Renaissance Faire the way it should be done, because the whole thing is a charitable benefit for local schools.
They—okay, we; I’m one of ’em—don’t have a corporate profit motive breathing down our necks. And as a result, we’re doing a Renaissance Faire unlike any other, a lovely jewel of enjoyment and wonder, right here in Ives Park in Sebastopol.
Meet the villagers of the little town of Fenford, come to celebrate their harvest fair at Michaelmas! Encounter Will Shakespere, and ask him why he can’t settle on a spelling for his name. See how the folk of Fenford, high-born and low-, live their lives. Hear music of the period, interact with characters from history. See hilarious stage shows. Treat yourself and your kids to fun and educational demonstrations of craft and art. Shop fer stuff. Marvel at period clothing of every class. Ruffs! Partlets!
Ogle the Queen, and sing the timeless song:
Ogle our gracious Quene,
Ogle our towhead Quene,
Yep, that’s the Quene.
Let her reign glorious O’er Court uproarious,
Now sing in tones stentorious: Ogle the Quene!
Admission on Saturday 9/22 will also allow you to stay for a special performance and live auction from 6pm to 10pm at the main stage and Pip ‘n Vine Tavern, featuring Aries Fire Arts Collective.
Anyway, you get the idea. It’s too cool for school…though in actuality, it’s for the schools.
Ah, irony. What fools these mortals be.
UPDATE: Mr. Downward informs me that this event sprang from a Renaissance Faire-type event for 7th graders which has been organized for several years now by Sebastopol teacher Andrea Hagan, who began this activity to reinforce California curriculum standards for 7th grade history/social studies. She approached the aforementioned sticklers for quality, resulting in Much Ado About Sebastopol.
So let me extend some credit to Ms. Hagan, and thanks for the opportunity to do one of these things with the proper set of priorities. If you have kids, BTW, there is a program of fun and educational activities in which you and they can participate to get the most out of your day in the Village of Fenford.
I hope to see you there! I play Elizabethan madrigal composer Thomas Morley, a social climber from humble roots who wears an elegant–but hopelessly out of fashion–set of used clothing. I’ll be the guy in black and silver, with the counting staff.
At publication, the Dragon was LOOKING FORWARD TO IT