There is always something a tad bit stiff about Shakespeare, and I’m not just talking about that ridiculous frilly collar. Imagery includes old theaters, full suits, and high priced tickets. Children’s eyes of all ages begin to immediately glaze as the “Thous”, “Whilsts”, and “Hithers” come out. There is no way to make Shakespeare more accessible, right?
Wrong. When you mix Shakespeare, a renaissance festival, and the quirkiness of Asheville, you create magic. Move over, Globe Theater. Take a backseat, Broadway. The Montford Park Players have created a interactive Shakespeare experience.
Despite the rainy day, the celebration of the opening night of Much Ado About Nothing was a lively experience. The costumes were colorful, the players were friendly, and the alcohol was flowing. Even I, cynical smirker that I am, threw out a couple of those, “Thank you, good sirs!” to the volunteer faire-goers. Highlights included a sword swinging match, games, artisans, and a collection of colorful characters who made even mundane events pretty interesting. My favorite moment was when participants were encouraged to drop Shakespeare himself into a dunk tank.
If you’re going to experience Shakespeare, this is the way to do it. The Montford Players Shakespeare festival is an annual event, so if you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth the time to go check it out. Did I mention it was free? Yeah. For the level of immersion experience, I’d pay for it but having them put all this on without pay really was a generous and a uniquely Asheville experience.
After stuffing myself with traditional renaissance fair foods (funnel cakes, anyone?) and drinking myself into a coma, I stuck around for the performance of Much Ado About Nothing in the outdoor amphitheater. They change out the plays every year but this comedic ending to opening day was a fun way to bring everything to a close. One faire goer told me, “We come every year and bring a picnic. It’s a lot of fun.”
I didn’t get the memo about bringing umbrellas, ponchos, and something waterproof to sit on, though. “The show must go on,” rain or shine, and the actors take that saying very, very seriously. Despite the steady drizzle, the play continued on as planned and I was damp by the time it wound to a close. That isn’t to say the enjoyment was dampened in any way. Due to the warm summer evening, the weather was tolerable. For future performances, however, I would definitely recommend bringing something to cover up with if the weather turns.
Another bit of information that seemed to be only known by those “in the know” was that, though the event and performances were free, they did encourage donations at five bucks a pop. Stopping by an ATM on the way would probably be a good idea because finding one near the theater or the faire’s grounds was a bit of a chore. Like I said, I would gladly pay for the event though and a five dollar donation is a drop in the bucket if you enjoy yourself as much as I did.
Performances of various plays run throughout the summer but the faire is, sadly, only for opening weekend. So put it on your schedule and come enjoy the performances and the quirkiness that is the Midsummer Faire put on by the Montford Park Players. You’ll be glad you did.
Montford Festival dates and hours is 06/03/2016 – 07/02/2016 – 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre, Asheville NC
This comedic conspiracy to get the bickering Beatrice and Benedick hitched is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays to this day!