A trip back in time awaits

If you’ve ever wanted to get a taste of Tudor England, now’s your chance.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival, now in its 41st year, offers scads of family entertainment in an outdoor setting near Annapolis, Md. The festival brings together more than 200 performers every weekend through Oct. 22.

The village, known as Revel Grove, is a 22-acre complex of permanent buildings set in a well-wooded forest, explained artistic director Carolyn Spedden.

“It’s a recreation of a 16th-century English village, but it’s also an entertainment venue,” she said. “I think if people are new to our event, what stuns them is the size and the really lovely outdoor location. With the wide variety of craft items, food, and the depth of entertainment, we really do have something for everyone.”

The event revolves around the central theme of England’s King Henry VIII during his reign from 1509 to 1547. Each year focuses on a 12-month period in Henry’s life; this year they will focus on his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Henry, portrayed by Glen Burnie, Md., resident Fred Nelson, will take part in a number of scripted events, Spedden revealed, but festival-goers also will meet him on random encounters as the stroll the grounds.

Henry will be more than happy to chat with the commoners he encounters, she said. Nelson stays in character, even when faced with mysteries such as cell phones and people asking for something known as “selfies.”

This year visitors will see Henry grappling with the momentous effort to annul his first marriage. This will include a reading of Henry’s love letters to Anne, the originals of which are preserved at the Vatican.

And to heighten the experience, the letters are read with the actors using the same pronunciation the real Henry and Anne would have used.

It’s a chance to hear the King’s English as it sounded to the real monarch, Spedden said.

“It’s a lot easier to understand than people think,” she said. “If you have to describe it, you’d say they sound like we imagine pirates to sound. It’s not at all the regal speech we think of the royals using today.”

A crowd favorite continues to be the jousts, with armored horsemen taking on each other in non-lethal combat. There’s also a new equestrian program, live music, entertainers including Hilby the Skinny German Juggling Boy and comedy programs, one of which features fast-paced humor from Mark Sieve and John Gamoke, two costumed comedians otherwise known as Puke and Snot.

All of this will be taking place as 21st-century folk stroll among beggars, hermits, stilt-walkers, rouges, rakes, pickpockets and comely wenches.

There’s also a variety of foods, from ribs to fish and even giant turkey drumsticks to enjoy, all of which can be washed down with quantities of ales, wines, and ciders. Vendors also will offer any number of craft items from headwear to stained glass, jewelry and wood and metal sculptures.

Revel Grove is open and the shows go on, rain or shine, Spedden said. People should come with the idea of being entertained, amused and fascinated, she added.

“There’s really so much going on you cannot see the whole show in one day,” she said. “It’s impossible.”