Don't look to Ren Fest for history lesson

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 27, 2011 - 11:23 AM
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In this file photo, knights Sam Kuecker, left and Douglass Payne put on armor before the afternoon show at the Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, Minn., on Aug. 20, 2011.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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It's easy for a visitor to wonder if the Minnesota Renaissance Festival has gone all medieval on us. It's also wrong.

While some performers' attire and shtick might seem to be straight out of the Middle Ages rather than the more enlightened era that followed it, the anachronisms at Ren Fest, which runs through Sunday in Shakopee, more often tilt toward 2011.

"The stage acts take liberties, but with a lot more modern references than Middle Ages," said Debra Mullen of Eagan, who portrays Princess Rhiannin at Ren Fest and has a Ph.D. in sociology.

Most performers, even Puke & Snot, tend toward not-so-serious century-hopping.

"There's just too much humor to be pulled out of the modern era," said Steven "Tuey" Wilson, whose juggling and rope-walking act includes this line: "Nothing says the Renaissance quite like Nerf balls."

Even the linguistics, real as they might sound, don't reflect history.

"I speak with a very high accent, and it's not accurate," Mullen said of her Ren Fest persona. "Most of them are made to sound right for the upper class. Modern-day linguists say the people back then would sound more like Appalachians of today."

And of course, the food most associated with the Ren Fest, the turkey leg, comes from a New World animal that wasn't introduced in Europe until late in the Renaissance.

Mullen said she and other Ren Fest performers occasionally hear from persnickety naysayers.

"Some people like to come in and say, 'Hey, this doesn't make any sense to have Robin Hood and Shakespeare at the same festival.' Or they'll look at costumes and say, 'This is early Tudor, and that is Elizabethan.'"

Still, said Caleb McEwen of the Danger Committee knife-throwing act, "I think the huge majority of fans are not out here for a historical education."

  • MINNESOTA RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL

    When: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Fri.-Sun.

    Where: 7 miles south of Shakopee on Hwy. 169.

    Cost: Adults $20.95, seniors $18.95, children 5-12 $11.95, 4 and under free; dogs $10 with registration.

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