Renaissance fair provides mystical realm of escapism
Jacques Ze Whippeur performs his trick “The French Fry.”
Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Carley Dangona
CARVER – The realms of fantasy and reality collide at the King Richard’s Faire (KRF) in September and October as patrons enjoy performances and food of yesteryear.
Don’t expect a historically correct re-enactment of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. KRF is a blend of fact and fancy. Some visitors join in the fun and come as knights, pirates, fawns, fairies, belly dancers and kings, while others prefer to remain spectators as they roam through the 80-acre site.
This year marks the 32nd season of KRF, which offers entertainment on eight stages, a jousting field and in a mud pit. An array of vendors sell goods such as corsets, handmade jewelry, horns that can be fastened to one’s forehead, costume clothing, swords, goblets and much, much more.
“Renaissance fairs are the last bastions of live theater. I’m really excited to be here. The fans are fantastic,” Paolo Garbanzo, a professional performer since age 15, said. He explained that TV couldn’t provide interactive entertainment as the fair does. Garbanzo returned to this year’s KRF after three years performing in Europe. His act offers juggling, fire breathing and more.
Another long-time act of KRF is The Mud Show, which features the Sturdy Beggars, who literally play in, throw, eat and spit mud.
“My goal is to see a biker, a grandmother and a 4-year-old laughing all at once – for different reasons,” Billy Billy vonBilly, one of the beggars, said. He performs alongside Privy La Pew as they compete for the audience’s affections. As part of the mud duel, each shares a muddy kiss with a lucky audience member. The duo has worked to together since 1998.
The Washing Well Wenches, Gerty and Sprout, are an act known for their bawdy behavior and penchant for making fun of men.
“Every show is completely different,” Sprout said. She cited the ability to read an audience as key because the goal is to have fun. In a recent show, a cheering audience actually threw toddlers into the air.
Both wenches agreed that a good audience is one that brings beer and available men.
Jacques Ze Whippeur, born Jack Lepiarz, has performed at KRF since 2008. He performs five solo shows a day during the fair, rotating among three stages. His father, John, is a well-known circus and Renaissance fair performer who helped create the persona of Jacques.
“My dad is an absolute wizard at creating new material. He said I needed a persona and he was right,” Lepiarz said. “I’m very close with my dad and have a lot of really great memories with him.”
By day, Lepiarz is a broadcaster at WBUR in Boston. On stage, he parades around in a drawn on mustache, speaking in a French accent, cracking and shimmying his way across the stage. He explained that the mustache helps audiences realize they are in for some comedy.
“The character is fairly different from me in real life. I’m a very private person. I’m a little shy – I wouldn’t start up a conversation with a stranger on the street. Becoming Jacques requires a mental shift. I have no shame about looking silly on stage,” he said.
Lepiarz, now 25, learned how to crack a whip at age 7. “I nearly poked my eye out the first day of learning. I was pretending to be Indiana Jones,” he said. In any given show he uses half a dozen whips.
“What can I do on stage that will shock and how can I add it to the act so it makes sense?” That is the question Lepiarz tries to answer to expand his routine. When asked why he continues performing despite the full-time day job, Lepiarz said, “KRF – I love it. I do it because it’s a decent paycheck, but because it’s also a lot of fun. At some point I will have to stop performing [at festivals] unless I make it my full-time job. At the moment, I’m very satisfied.”
As for the 2013 KRF, he said, “This year, and I mean this, is the best year of entertainment we’ve had. There’s not a single act that I wouldn’t recommend.”
The fair will continue until Oct. 20 and is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $28 for adults, $16 for children ages 4 to 11 and free for children age 3 and younger.
For more information, visit http://kingrichardsfaire.net
Comments From Our Readers: