Tag Archives: 1990s

Ohio Renaissance Festival +20 – Auditions 94

Once I had received confirmation of my application for the cast, the next step was to audition. There were two primary requirements for the audition: a prepared monologue and a song. These were intended to test the candidates ability to memorize, sing on key, perform the passage rather than simply read it, and project well enough so the audience would be able to hear.

This latter was critical since the outdoor performance areas were unamplified, and it was necessary to be able to project well across a large area without straining the voice. If not done skillfully, a performer would be without a voice before the end of the first day’s performances.

With the passage of 20 years I have forgotten what I presented as my spoken effort, but I clearly remember what I sang. I wanted to sing a song that was naturally a solo effort, and one that did not have a large range or difficult passages so that I could master it in a short time. It was also important that it be able to be sung a cappella, as there would be no instruments to accompany me or any of the other candidates.

After looking through my collection of tapes and CDs I settled on the song by Arlo Guthrie titled “City of New Orleans”. This is a simple song with easy to perform lyrics, so I was able to memorize it and feel comfortable about the music. It certainly helps that I liked the song a lot and had learned much of it before I decided to perform it.

Once at the auditions each person was invited up on the Gloriana stage to perform their spoken part, and then after a break, the same individuals sang their song. While the spoken parts were performed in their entirety, very few of the songs were sung to their conclusion.

One notable exception was my own. After hearing several people sing, I no longer felt there was a risk of my own performance not matching or bettering the other candidates. A song from “The Littlest Mermaid” was a popular choice, and was performed by a few of the women candidates.

Finally, it was my turn. I took the stage and stood in the center, introduced the song I was to sing, and cleared my throat. To help me keep time, I began to tap my foot as started to sing. I fully expected to be stopped like almost all the other candidates, but the director simply sat and listened as I sang the entire song. When I finished, I received a polite round of applause, which was also unexpected.

I was one of the last candidates to sing, and when the last person was finished Paul Kostrach announced that acceptance letters would be sent out to the successful candidates. Before I could leave, he came over to me and said that I didn’t need to worry about being accepted, as he was certain I would be, and that he had already thought of a character for me to play: the village undertaker.

I responded that while I was happy to play whatever they felt would be appropriate for the show, I had in mind another character instead.

Ohio Renaissance Festival +20 – The Beginning

I performed for four years at the Ohio Renaissance Festival from 1994 to 1997, but my first day in costume and in character was Opening Day 1993. I was a patron, and dressed in my costume from the Northern California Pleasure Faire, I took on my role as an itinerant teacher. My outfit looked roughly like this:

This is me in my peasant garb as it looked during a Halloween costume contest at my place of work in 1993. The winner was the woman on the left, who was dressed as a statue from the Fountain Square district of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. The company was making noises about moving the operation there from it’s historical location, and did so a couple of years later. I took second place with pieces from my peasant garb and other items that I had purchased over the years I was at the Northern California Pleasure Faire.

But I had worn the outfit a couple of months earlier on opening day, when I joined the first group of patrons who entered the Festival after the opening gate ceremony. As I proceeded past the gate, I looked around a bit and decided to turn to the right and follow the path in an anti-clockwise direction.

Before I reached the edge of the gate plaza I was accosted by a tall, lanky young man with curly brown hair in peasant garb and a plaque around his neck. He introduced himself as the Queen’s guide, and after a bit of conversation revealed the opposite side of his plaque, which identified him as the Village Liar. He was quite a facile liar at that, and I conversed with him using the style of Festival English I learned at the NorCal Faire, and after a few minutes, went on my way.

A year later the same young man would accost me at the auditions, asking me why I looked so familiar to him. I explained how we met on opening day the previous year, and he immediately remembered that moment. The young man is Steven Townshend, who continued performing with me throughout my tenure and beyond.

I knew that being dressed and in character could create some confusion among the patrons, so I specifically avoided performing in any overt manner. I also made discreet attempts to avoid being engaged by the actual performers, so that they could entertain the other patrons without wasting their time on me. For the rest of that day, and the other days I attended that season, I mostly watched various shows, browsed about and played games, and acted as an ornament to various shops during the course of the day.

At first, I was also concerned that I would be a distraction to the shop’s customers, and I made a point of asking the shopkeeper if it was acceptable for me to stand at their shop and greet patrons as they passed. Without exception the sellers were happy to have me there, as I attracted more attention to their shops than might otherwise be the case. I at times even went so far as to encourage patrons to examine the seller’s wares.

My day then became one of chatting with patrons and playing to their small children, telling them a bit of my story and trying to provoke a smile when I could. I was asked by teenaged girls more than once if I would kiss their hands, but I demurred. Instead, I recommended they seek out Sir Francis Drake, who was played by the far more handsome Jon Grilli, and made a point to send them where he would be.

My other purpose to being at the Festival those days was to evaluate for myself if it would be worth my time to take part as a regular performer. I watched the cast and the various skits they performed as well as random improvs that took place while I was nearby. I came to the conclusion that this would be an exciting and memorable activity for me, and once the festival was over, took note of the means to audition next year and set a reminder to do so.