- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
It’s time to put on the chain mail, gather the lasses and munch on a turkey leg during the College of Southern Maryland’s Renaissance Festival, which runs through April 26 at the La Plata campus.
“It’s a fun-filled day,” said Keith Hight, a professor at CSM who is on the organizing committee. “There’s a lot of fun and games, and it’s history, made live.”
The festival, which kicked off Thursday night with a concert, will feature close to 20 vendors and artisans and activities such as firearms and archery demonstrations, mock battles, magicians and a knighting ceremony.
An outside stage will feature ongoing music and events, and Shakespeare events will be performed at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Hight said planning started in August. When asked how many man-hours have gone into constructing the two stages, he said, “We stopped counting. We have so stopped counting.”
He said his team started setting up the festival Monday morning with 100 bales of hay and won’t stop until the festival closes Saturday night.
“I wanted to do a festival. I wanted to do something crazy and strange,” Hight said of the festival, which began last year and attracted more than 300 visitors. “And I thought a Renaissance festival would be good to go along with the plays we’re doing.”
This year’s play is “Lysistrata,” which is one of the few remaining plays written by Aristophanes. Originally performed in Athens in 411 B.C., the play tells the story of one woman’s mission to end the Peloponnesian War by getting all women to abstain from sex until their men stop fighting battles.
“The women are tired that the men are going off to war for like the 19th time, and Lysistrata is [irked], so she gets all the girls together to [figuratively] sew their legs together, and that will bring about peace,” Hight said.
Surasree Das plays the lead role while Ashley James plays Cleo in her first-ever role. Aimee Bonnet assumes the role of Lampito.
“I think it’s actually funny, and it’s very ironic because women need them to fight the battles, but they don’t want them to fight the battles,” said James, a theater major from Waldorf. “It’s like Hannah Montana [says in the song], they want the best of both worlds.”
Lilliana is played by Jamie Burroughs, and Alexis Miller and Laura Stephens are cast as Olivia and Beatrice, respectively.
“[Lilliana and I] we’re kind of like guards. We watch out and tell the women when the men are coming, and we mess with the old men,” Miller, a theater major from Crofton, said of her role. “Lilliana’s got all the bite, and we just follow up with a little bark behind her.”
Alex LeClair plays Ben. Christopher Lange is cast as James, and La Plata resident J.R. Cook plays the role of Phil.
“I’m fighting for the men and trying to get what we deserve,” Cook said, “but the women do get the best of us pretty much, but we try our best.”
Hight said the first two versions failed to elicit the response he was looking for so he had friend Phoebe Hall write a third version.
“When we were reading the [first] Greek version people were like, ‘Huh?’” Hight said. “The second one we made a little bit more American, and there was still a lot of, ‘Huh?’ It was almost Shakespeare, and none of the jokes were being got. The third version was about the war in Afghanistan, but I’m moving it to Southern Maryland.”
As a result, the Waldorfians are battling the La Platians over a Wal-Mart.
“It’s a really powerful show, and it’s a fun show,” Hight said. “It’s bawdy. It’s one of the first truly bawdy pieces for theater ever written, and it’s also an anti-war piece.”
And bawdy it is. The 4 p.m. showings are rated parental guidance for language, but the 7 p.m. shows are rated R for scantily clad actors, language, innuendo and simulated actions.
“It was kind of awkward at first,” James said of her wardrobe during the latter show, “then I just pictured myself at the beach and everyone else in their swimsuits so now I’m fine with it.”
Cook said he had no problems with being in his skivvies, but Miller admitted “it kind of took a lot more than expected to get comfortable with how we have to be so open on the stage and uncovered.”
Hight — who said “we pushed the envelope on this one” — said he was careful to respect each of his 35 actors.
“It’s all about their comfort zone. I’m not going to push them past their comfort zone,” he said. “We found where their limits were, and then we stopped.”
Hight said he wants people to question themselves after the 90-minute play.