Dundee Renaissance Festival brings new life to old times


By Michael Dinan
Staff Writer

June 12, 2005

"Sir" Douglas Lee, 8, espied his blood rival, "Lord" Eddie Bray, also 8, on the green lawn behind the International School at Dundee yesterday afternoon.

Equipped with a plastic shield and inflatable sword, young Douglas adjusted his glasses, pulled up his sagging shorts and charged Eddie, crying "Die, die, die" while his backpedaling foe deflected the blows.

"I like being a knight in medieval times," Eddie said, briefly returning to the 21st century when his arms gave out. "This is the best."

The boys were two of an estimated 1,000 area residents paying $8 to $12 to participate in the school's First Annual ISD Renaissance Festival. Hired hands sweated under the oppressive sun in Elizabethan cloaks, hoods, capes and chemises, entertaining the crowds with music, jousting, puppet shows, Shakespearean plays, catapulting and medieval games.

The nine-hour festival, benefiting the school's PTA, was designed to reflect International School at Dundee's mission, event chairman Chris Harris said.

"My whole pitch was that we have enough Ferris wheels in town to go around," said Harris, dressed in a sweat-drenched tunic while clutching a juicy leg of smoked turkey. "Our name is the International School, so let's use our name to embark on an adventure in 16th-century England."

Eric De Riemer, 12, an Eastern Middle School sixth-grader, was picked to play Macduff, Macbeth's undoer in Shakes-peare's tragedy, during an ad-lib "interpretation" of the play in the center of the school's lawn.

Employees of Round Table Productions, a Lititz, Pa.-based traveling entertainment company hired to put on the festival, drew crowds to the stage by shouting to passers-by: "Leave all your brain cells at the door," "Come see a man fight in black velvety pants," and "Keep violence where it belongs: out of the theater and on the streets."

Eric managed to slay his foe in hilarious fashion, felling Macbeth with a feather-stuffed sword that drooped constantly and drew laughter from the gathering crowd.

"They were directing me and I really didn't get to pick (a role)," Eric, who starred recently in another Shakespearean play at school, said of the Round Table directors after the "drama" had unfolded. "Otherwise, it was pretty much the same."

Old Greenwich resident Paula Yau, 39, said her two children had been looking forward to the festival for six months. Yau's son Julian, 6, sported a cape and helmet, while her daughter Ashton, 4, came to the festival with a pink tiara and matching wand.

"It's wonderful," Yau said. "They've really transformed this into another world. We're looking forward to the jousting."

A long line of children found relief from the heat as water balloons exploded overhead while they leaned through a "pillory," or medieval stockade. Others, like 8-year-old Bailey Robben, snacked on hamburgers and hot dogs in the shade and listened to The Reelies, a three-piece acoustical band from Manhattan, crank out "Tom O' Bedlam" and other songs.

"I like (the music)," said Bailey, while The Reelies' violinist, Joanna Farrer, stooped and swayed in front of her.

For Darien resident Reed Morgan, 10, sword-fighting lessons from Phoenix Swords were the highlight of the festival. In addition to teaching him the art of swordplay, members of the Worcester, Mass.-based company sent Reed on a chivalric "quest" to dance for a band of minstrels, tell a joke to a jester and identify the feathers in a pirate's hat.

Copyright © 2005, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.