by Jim Harris
Come all ye lords and lassies
to the rollicking, frolicking days of plagues, witch hunts, illiteracy
and servitude! Experience those romantic times when rowdy rouges
and lusty wenches bathed infrequently, if ever, and an unboiled
cup o' water or a cut on the finger could kill ya deader than
Question: What takes place in
Pennsylvania every fall and has more crazy caucasians than an
Elvis look-alike contest? Why, to be sure, it's the Renaissance
Faire! The scenario is like "Connecticut Yankee" in
reverse: an entire medieval village suddenly appearing in the
midst of a technologically advanced society. Let's take a virtual
First we see the guildsmen and
merchants. Looks like show and tell day at vo-tech school. "Nice
work, Lancelot. That club with all the spikes must have taken
a lot of time to whittle. Did you know that they have machines
that can do that now?"
Next, the refreshment booth.
Ah, recently fermented wine, or maybe it's beer, hard to tell.
Anyway it washes down the big hunks of mutton nicely. Over there,
falconers are demonstrating their skills with large dangerous
raptors. One of the falcons seems to be eyeing my mutton and it's
making me a little nervous. I heard that one flew off with a young
child last year.
Everywhere historical figures
are engaging fairgoers in lively discourse: "What's that,
you're Queen Elizabeth and you'd like to dance with me? Uh, gee,
I'm flattered, Your Highness, but I just had a hip replaced."
The Faire ads call it "high-touch
(rather than high-tech) interactive theater." They don't
get it. The whole thing about theater is that it's NOT interactive.
There's supposed to be a cast, a script, and an all-important
invisible fourth wall that keeps the audience in a safe, protective
womb of obscurity.
A little personal background:
Whenever I'm at a play and I get even the slightest inkling that
the performers may be coming out into the audience, I pull my
shirt over my head and yell "Don't touch me" over and
over. This behavior has rendered me somewhat of a pariah in artsy-fartsy
theatergoing circles, but I care not. I pay to be touched figuratively,
not literally, by the arts. My personal space is accessible by
Having all those wacky Renaissance
people coming at me from all directions could surely cause me
to have some kind of stroke or something. I mean, even the bathroom
attendants there are costumed and in character. And I used to
think that doormen had it bad. Imagine having to wear a silly
outfit and clean toilets to boot. Bottom line, there's no escaping
the characters in this medieval looney bin.
And make no mistake, they are
all mad as hatters. I have no doubt that they believe they are
actually people from the 16th century. I think the lot of them
are very close to busting out of the fairgrounds and running amok
in the real world, jousting with cars on the turnpike and beheading
hapless citizens willy-nilly.
Before that happens, I propose
that we bring in a team of psychiatrists and exorcists to do a
mass "intervention." First, the clerics would chase
out any ancient demonic spirits that might be present, then the
psychiatrists would engage in a sophisticated therapeutic deprogramming
dialogue: "You're NOT Queen Elizabeth (Yes I am) No you're
NOT!" and so on, until they came to their senses.
To do all this, of course, would
take lots of government money. Please, write to your elected officials
and tell them that you're sick and tired of living in fear of
being attacked by Knights of the Roundtable. Be sure to give
your full name and address, and don't mention me or this article,
as I am operating undercover at the outhouse behind the castle.