Jul 102010

The owner of King Richard’s Faire has finally slit her own throat: she’s let Richard Weber walk away and in one blow has lost not only her longest-standing cast member but her wardrobe master as well.

I have a great deal of fondness for the rest of the cast, don’t get me wrong, but for me, Rick was the heart and soul of KRF. I was a fan of his Percival Dégagé from the first year he set foot in those gorgeous woods. Gods, but no one could carry off draped gold lamé sleeves and a hand fan the way Percy did when he was young! His wardobe’s gotten less flamboyant over the years, but he’s still fabulous. And funny. And moreover, Rick’s a genuinely sweet guy who’s all about the audience. He’s always been kind enough to spare a few moments for me, and over the years I’ve come to think of him as a friend, albeit one that I only see once a year. Which, honestly, is more often than I see a lot of other people I’m supposedly closer to.

I’m heartbroken over this. For Rick’s sake as well as my own. I know KRF was special to him. And I know it will never be the same without him.

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Oct 262009

I dragged my husband and two friends to King Richard’s Faire yesterday. Last day of the season, which is always my favorite, because the actors loosen up and go off script more often. The weather was gorgeous, despite the mud from the previous night’s rain. And “Bite Me: A Vampire Musical” was silly and campy and wonderfully fun. Yet still I sit here the next morning with a feeling of sadness.

Andy and I managed to get 10 minutes with Rick Weber, aka Lord Chancellor Percival Degagé, right after the gates opened. After all these years, he actually recognized Andy on sight. Big hug. “You look fabulous!” (As he aways does.) And then he dropped the bomb.

It seems the producer of KRF is panicking so much over the economy that she’s not only raised the gate price (as she does every year) but cut salaries. To the point where the Gypsy Dancers didn’t even come this year. And if she doesn’t get her head on straight, Rick will not be back next year.

Rick’s not just the funniest actor (IMHO) on the renfaire circuit, he’s KRF’s wardrobe master as well. He’s also all that’s left of the cast they had in their heyday, and consequently the only one who can tell the new interns the history behind the scenes. Their living memory, as it were.

When we spoke to him, Rick said he’d asked Ms. Shapiro to let him know before day’s end whether she’d be able to meet his salary next year, because, well, he had some serious farewells to make if he wasn’t going to be back. He wasn’t at the gate when the final songs were sung, but Heyo the Jester was kind enough to pass on to us that Rick was still waiting to hear.

If she lets Rick walk away, I doubt I’ll be back. He’s KRF’s heart and soul. As much as I love that faireground, it would feel empty without him. And who wants to pay that kind of money to visit a ghost?

PS: Did I mention that yesterday was Rick’s birthday?

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Oct 212008

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why comments are off on my last post, nor how to fix them. So comment here, if you have something to say about KRF or Sir Percival or whatever.

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Rennie Celebrations

 Posted by at 4:53 am  Entertainment & The Arts, Life Online  Comments Off on Rennie Celebrations
Oct 212008

It’s that time of year again, folks! Yup, you guessed it: I have made my annual pilgrimage to Carvershire and been to King Richard’s Faire.

Sheriff Glenn Feeldenstreme still patrols the village with his ale tankard balanced atop his bald head. The smell of horse manure and pine needles and roasted turkey legs still blend into sweet perfume. There are still pirates and wenches and mud-covered beggars and knights on horseback. And, of course, a whole lot of very silly song and dance numbers.

But this year was special. And I am glad beyond imagining that we chose to go Sunday, on the last day of the season this year. Because this year, in honor of Richard Weber’s 30th year in the renfaire biz, the cast and crew of KRF threw together a little to-do in his honor, and Andy and I and our friend Kate were in the audience when they snuck up on him with it.

“Who’s Richard Weber?” I hear you ask. Rick is KRF’s costume designer and wardrobe master, at which he frankly excels. He’s also the Lord High Chancellor, Sir Percival Degagé. The single funniest renfaire character (IMHO) ever invented.

That photo, right there, which I took Sunday, is something of a special occasion all by its lonesome, really. I have been a fan of Rick’s all my adult life, and the man is usually just impossible to photograph. He’s almost always in motion, so 95% of the pix I’ve taken of him over the years are blurry. I’ve more than once joked that he must be a vampire.

Heyo the Jester MC’d so that we (and Rick) could be treated to many a bawdy joke as cast members held a roast, presented a brief “This is Your Life” rip-off, made very touching speeches, and paraded across the stage wearing costumes that Percy’s worn over the years. There was an impersonate Percy contest, too, with the winner decided by who could collect more money from the audience… in his pants. Percy, naturally had to help with the tally. He even got a serenade from The Lost Boys.

And, yes, if you’re thinking that shot looks like a kiss about to happen, you’d be right. In fact, Rick got a great many smooches from other male cast members, at least some of whom I happen to know are straight. And the audience cheered every last one of them with great rollicking enthusiasm.

Congratulations, Rick! Thank you for giving so much of your time and energy to all of us. And, really, sweetie, no matter what Heyo says, in my book, you still look maahvelous!

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Sep 302007

For years now, King Richard’s Faire has been on what I consider to be a downturn. They’ve been “Disneyfying” the show one inch at a time and consequently taking all the real life out of it. The jousting cheers have gotten tame and the songs with all the double entendres have been slowly weeded out. It’s been a sad thing to watch, especially as the gate price has continued to go up. Gods, if they want the family crowd so badly, they might think about making it more affordable for families.

But this year, they seem to have realized that they still have grownups in their audience. Roll Your Leg Over was back in the Pub Sing. And they hired a new trio of singing wenches, called the Three Graces, who are actually rated PG (they marked it on the program). I’m thrilled. ‘Cause you know what, gang? The Rennaissance was not rated G. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And leaving out the naughty bits leaves out lots of really cool stuff. Really cool, genuinely funny stuff.

Honestly, the last few years, the only reason I’ve even bothered with KRF is because they haven’t yet managed to drive Richard Weber away, and as long as Lord Percival Degagé is Chancellor, I’ll grit my teeth and pay the outrageous ticket price.

I sound like such a silly fangirl saying this, but I’m still bouncing over the fact that I actually got to tell him that yesterday. I think I caught him off-guard with it, too, which made it even better. Seriously, he sort of blinked at me and a second later his face just lit up. It was a marvelous thing to watch. Plus, I got to hug him.

And I have my husband to thank for that. He grabbed Percy when I wasn’t looking and asked him to come say hello to me. And I was walking away at the time, so I had the Lord Chancellor chasing after me across the faireground, calling my name. Yay!

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Oct 012006

We drove down to King Richard’s Faire yesterday. Gods, but I love that faireground! Maybe it’s just that I’ve been going there since I was a teenager, so the smell of pine needles and horse manure sets off my subconscious, but walking through that gate always feels a little bit like going home.

Of course, it’s not the same faire that it was in its heyday, fifteen to twenty years ago. They’ve been through management-talent disputes that prompted some of their best and brightest to move on. They’ve endured the deaths of two of their most talented and beloved actors. They’ve toned down the Pub Sing (I still miss Roll Your Leg Over). They’ve taken most of the fun out of cheering for the bad guys at the joust (Does anyone besides me and my college friends even remember “What makes the grass grow? Blood! Blood! Blood!” anymore?).

But it’s still where I need to be at least once a fall. I have to stop by the memorials for Ray and Bodge. I have to sing Bedlam Boys. I have to watch the Hanlon-Lees Action Theater do their wonderful jousting. I have to see Sheriff Glenn Feeldenstreme walking around with a tankard balanced on his head. I have to watch The Mud Show by the Sturdy Beggars (and say hello to Arthur Morison/Sweet Dick Weasel, with whom Andy and I have a nodding acquaintance from having lived in the same neighborhood a few years back). And most of all, I absolutely must, must, must see Rick Weber’s Lord Percival Degagé, who has been my favorite renfaire character, hands down, for my entire adult life.

Singing Wild Mountain Thyme at the end of the day yesterday was an emotional experience. It’s been three years since we lost Bodge Burinski to cancer, and I still get all choked up over the third verse, the one she always sang solo. It didn’t help that Lord Percy had excused himself from the stage and was standing a few feet behind me with tears in his eyes. Rick and Bodge were very close.

Gods! I sound like I really know these people, don’t I? Part of that’s the illusion that comes with being a longtime fan, I suppose. I see these people more often than I see many of my own relatives. I also have a small number of friends and acquaintances who’ve performed at KRF or other faires, or who’ve worked the merchant booths. In college, I had a few months’ flirtation and one date with an actor/fight choreographer that I met at KRF (yes, he was in character when we met). So I’ve lived on the periphery of the rennie community for a long time. And that’s probably the real reason why I love the smell of the faireground in South Carver. Why it really does feel like going home.

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