This weekend my family strolled in costume among the RenFaire community, savoring the spontaneous interaction with the inhabitants of Crossford. The village welcomed me with a hearty "M'Lord," and my daughters each garnered a gentle "M'Lady." Indeed, Hallie and Hannah giggled uncontrollably upon discovering that the players bowed in their presence until released. "Rise, good sir," had a pleasant lilt from the lips of my pre-teen princesses.
Hannah roamed the merchant stands with a discerning and fickle taste, while her older sister marked treasures with practiced confidence. My girls opened their hearts and imaginations, and prepared for barter and baubles, as the townsfolk were ever-so-gracious in their dealings. To mention only some, is a disservice to the rest - we cherished them all.
Similarly, there are not enough words to adequately describe the delightful performers! Impromptu stage and troubadour skits, music and jest, song and rhyme, flames and daring acrobatics, archery and swordplay, a living chess match and fine spirits to imbibe... it was too much to absorb in a single outing.
My compliments to Phil Leipf as the villainous Comte de Rochefort, to Melissa L.E. Baker as his temptress co-conspirator Milady de Winter, and to Katie Horahan as the charming Duchess of Northumberland, and still, there are more notes of special attention...
At mid-afternoon, we sheltered from a passing thunderstorm within the Willows Stage structure. Therein, my curious girls were drafted by the Bard of Avon - William Shakespeare - as he organized an abbreviated and raucous audience participation version of "Twelfth Night and The Three Little Bears." The good natured folks in the crowd were hilarious in their guided acting, and Will's wit was sharper than all the nearby swords.
Thereafter, and harkening to the days of old, we experienced true artisanship. We stood spellbound at the forge of "Historical Glassworks," as master glass blower Jason Klein crafted a Renaissance-style fluted wine decanter before our eyes. With absolutely no pressure from the
gathered onlookers, and between ample puffing breaths of creative energy, Jason explained his techniques, issued commands to apprentices, and orchestrated a delicate dance of molten glass.
Meandering away from that skillful glass menagerie, we happened upon a fearsome couple arrayed for the Zombie Apocalypse! They offered my daughters a copy of the Adventurer's Handbook - a publication by TJ Miller and John A. Williams a/k/a The Lords of Adventure: Roger Awesome and Jack Bold. My girls bravely whispered to these armor-clad warriors that we owned two copies already, and then demurely asked if they would consent to pose for a picture.
Perched at rest, the birds were beautiful and majestic. During the falconry demonstration it was simply nature's magic, as they soared aloft the entire encampment, banked a few feet over our heads, and launched talons-a-ready upon the Falconer's twirling lure.
On our way back to the main amphitheatre, I was waylaid at "LaForge Weapons." Sparks flew both in the blazing furnace and on the sturdy anvil. There were regal decorative weapons abounding, but I required a combat blade capable of enduring full throttle impact - steel on steel.
I selected a likely candidate off the rack and then asked the master smith if its edge would stay keen in hard battle. No words echoed in reply, though I believe a slight growl ensued from his throat... he then gripped the sword from my hand, moved his anvil into position, bade me step back, and firmly struck the blade's edge upon the anvil with not one, but three ringing blows. With a satisfied grin on his face, the weapon was returned for my inspection.
I anticipated a chip and more likely a gouge given the enthusiasm of his test... I found not even the hint of a scratch!
Within the hour, the primary acting Troupe escorted a horde of Faire-goers to our venue for the final reconciliation between D'Artagnon and Constance on the one hand, and the Comte de Rochefort and Countess de Winter on the other. Yes, as you may have surmised, regards to Alexandre Dumas, for this year's RenFaire theme is the Three Musketeers. After due ceremonies, the players serenaded the crowd with a last ballad and a simple wish - that we may all be present to do this again. Amen. As I listened with Hallie and Hannah, I thought of my wife: she was absent from our festivities in order to comfort a dying friend of the family. My eyes blurred, and I thanked the powers-that-be for my blessings and the opportunity to share our day among such joyful and talented folk.
You can yet partake, for I'm told that the 2012 NJ Renaissance Faire will continue for at least one more weekend - June 9th and 10th. Failing that option, perhaps it will be another worthy RenFaire in your home state. For let it be written and let it be said: we can all do with more laughter and love!
Causes W.L. Hoffman Supports
Preservation New Jersey - Trenton, NJ The Waldorf School of Princeton - Princeton, NJ Resource Center for Women and Their Families - Hillsborough, NJ