On September 9 and 10 the Time Travelers Weekend at the Ohio Renaissance Festival brought all manner of character, creature from Stormtrooper to gate-keeper to thy majesty’s medieval kingdom. Villagers walked, gazed and marveled at those in costume. Travelers from near and far away kingdoms, worlds and galaxies made the pilgrimage to the holy grounds of outdoor annual cosplay. Costumes ranged from fairies and damsels to Steampunk and pirates. Dr. Who, Star Wars and Star Trek roamed freely as brave, heroic knights decorated the streets of yore.
This year’s weekend themes present nine in all with pirates (16-17), barbarians, fools, highlanders and more forthcoming, sending people back in time upon entry unto the 30–acre 16th Century English permanent re-creation. The Brimstone Haunt opens September 22.
The winding village that sports 14 stages of art and entertainment has run since 1990, displaying nearly 100 daily shows with vendors and performers at every turn. Ye shall never be bored along the path. The ancient merchant arts and crafts are brought to the modern world for all to see along with belly-dancing, sword fighting and throwing, fire-swallowing and breathing, armed jousting, magic shows, medieval music, comedy, mud hurling, knife-throwing and other dangerous, life threatening feats of amazement for spectator amusement. There are also 23 pubs and edibles offering tasty bounties amongst the feast of food booths.
Among audience favorites and fest-staples, 2017 new additions include the satin swirling, height defying ladies of Circa Brava and Christophe the Insultor return’s for more weekly roasting in a show for the adults. Musical guests Saxon Moon also appeared for the first two weekends.
Dirk and Guido the Swordsmen battled on the early morning stage, performing for the day’s first audience, battling with wits, skill, humor and knowing how to handle awkward moments when children loudly get adult jokes.
The award winning duo battled each other while trying to win the hand and affection of happily married audience member Lorna. They swung in slow motion, teaching important, proper breathing techniques in between as the crowd counted point hits. Blades were tossed, thrown, made into shapes, swung hard but never left the stage. Dirk proudly stated while dueling that the swords in play were made by Rouge Steele in central Illinois.
New attraction, the lovely spinning, twirling ascending and descending ladies of Cirqa Brava left everyone seeing red. You’ll never look at long flowing fabric or drapes the same way again with a show leaving even the biggest, baddest, toughest dude feeling a little silky.
The very limber and bendable anatomically gifted Marina Petrano showed off bone breaking skills, bending and contorting out of shape to the awe and awkward smiles and cringes of the crowd. No mere spider-walk was enough as Petrano bent over backwards while keeping eye contact.
Later in the show with the help of two volunteers they bent her leg backwards while Jennifer Buehlman shimmied through an open tennis racket. Petrano did a mid-air handstand then took to the sky, suspending herself high in the air with only fabric and joint strength keeping her safe, doing tricks and ballet. Buehlman then had her chance to wow the crowd.
The full armored joust was next as the crowd welcomed the queen to the games. After offering roses to two special ladies in the crowd, two brave knights rode on grand beasts trying to score points catching rings and throwing their lances. Some audience members were awarded chocolaty edible gold and were encouraged to share, lick by lick. The second part involved full metal contact as the knights charged each other trying to knock the other off, without maiming or decapitation. The master of ceremony compared the impact to a modern day 40-mph car crash. Points were scored, horses went temporarily rogue and one brave knight tasted the ground.
Theatre in the Ground aka (The Mudde Show) took getting down and dirty to the most literal possible meaning. Pat Johnson, Jonathan Crocker, and Ben McCauley performed classical literate in the coolest, funniest most non-political mud-slinging show this side of D.C. The daily schedule runs through Beowulf, Dante’s Inferno, and the dirtiest play in the game, The Viking Show.
For those brave or unknowingly unfortunate enough to sit too close to The Mud Pit, aka The Muditorium, experienced the closest thing to a medieval GWAR show.
Stuffed animals were ripped and torn. (Real) wedgees were given and the ice bucket challenge was taken to a whole new level as the audience was taken to hell’s most dirty dungeon. The main character was tormented by the horned heckler, later crowd-splasher, while trying to win the affection of a damsel from the crowd as they scampered through it. In the end, even the narrator took an assisted plunge.
From L.A. to the Renaissance stage, The Kamikaze Fireflies played with chairs, wheels, rings of fire, whips, torches, glasses and… marshmallows. Rob Williams made his own customized corporate ladder/tower of Babel juggling enflamed torches five stories up as Casey Martin wheeled around, drinks in hand showing multi-tasking hula-hoop mastery. They brought a big, strong able-bodied audience member up so Martin could non-affectionately mount and crawl around him. Martin stood on a shopping cart tossing flamed torches back and forth.
Stuart Siskanovich cracked jokes and pulled a plethora of plunder from his bag. He opened playing with fire, tossing lit sticks around before balancing a large, sharp sword on wood, Excalibur style. He played with colored balls, balancing each on a blade. Rubber chickens, ceremonial daggers, ancient coins, plastic eggs, garden tools and other curiosities flew out of his case. By crowd request he juggled the egg, the dagger and the rubber chicken, ending the show burning the torches at both ends, twirling like it was daredevil pick up sticks.
The Pickled Brothers circus from Florence came to sword swallow, breathe fire, take cat naps on nails and have people bounce on them with thin boards. Yeah Susan! After Travis tasted the wicked hot flames, a volunteer was brought up to test the swords validity before being self-lowered down his throat then grabbing carefully for the slow, delicate pull-out. Susan had her turn on the sharpened bed with an improv dance routine by Travis. Next they took turns stomping on each other’s compressed vertebrae with nails cushioning their backs. Two large volunteers from the crowd were chosen to come up and test his spinal integrity.
The Robbin Marks Magic Show marveled showcasing the art of palming, misdirection and amazing magic. The show went from ball-istic to fruity to very bunny. The crowd ooh’d, ahhh’d and gasped… as instructed as Dave and Miss Felix played hide and seek with a bag, made a bandana… err banana disappear, color schemed scarfs and played the red ball under the cups game. In the end it all turned out cantaloupes, apples and onions.
Two of the lovely dancers of troupe Rambling Rhythms shook and shimmered their way into the crowd’s heart and soul led with the beats of Nadim and Ingwe. With enticing and entrancing improvisational routines performed to live Arabic drumming they fused sexy movement with Egyptian, middle-eastern and American styles. They used a variety of props to add visual flavor and danger including a heavy and sharp scimitar, silk veils and fan veils among others.
Images by Mike Ritchie