Long Live the King: King Richard’s Faire crowns a new monarch

In 2018, the long-running King Richard’s Faire welcomed a new Queen Anne. One year later, there’s another shakeup in the kingdom: a fresh King Richard will preside over the fictional Carvershire this fall. 

Now in its 38th season, the popular Carver, Mass., renaissance faire runs weekends and holidays through October 20, and this year, the monarch’s robe will be donned by Kirk Simpson, an actor and graphic designer from Berwick, Maine. The regime change is a, historic one; Simpson’s predecessor, Tom Epstein, ruled for more than 15 years. 

Simpson may be new to the throne, but not to Carvershire. As the monarch explained in an email, the faire strongly influenced his high-school self three decades ago, leaving him “overwhelmingly inspired.”

“The faire launched me into the world of acting,” Simpson wrote. “It’s like coming home.”

King Richard XI is not the only authority in Carvershire, however. PVD’s own Adam Morris typically serves tables, but in Carvershire he serves the commoners with song as the in-universe “foppish mayor,” one of several characters in the faire’s numerous musical numbers. 

IRL, Morris is also powerful behind-the-scenes, now entering his seventh year as the faire’s village director. He’s in charge of six other directors, each of them a tutor in the essential skills: singing, acting, dancing, improv, stagecraft and sword fighting. Morris and his assistant coordinate all these talents, drawing up schedules for auditions and rehearsals. 

“It takes a village,” Morris says, adding a faux chuckle, “to make King Richard’s Faire go on, right from the villagers down to the producers.”

Speaking of villagers, Morris helps select the costumed personalities you’ll see throughout the fairgrounds. Auditions are held yearly in April, with a song and a monologue required of each aspiring peasant.

Successful auditions get to participate in what Morris calls “a very interesting and quick form of theater,” as villagers improvise with fairgoers. Morris sees this on-the-fly acting as vital to the faire experience.

“We add life to the village,” he says. “We give the wonderful feel of that first scene in Beauty and the Beast,” wherein Belle strolls past colorful townspeople, nose stuck in a book.

You may want to lift your eyes, however, given the faire’s new attractions this year. You can expect a variety show’s worth of acts, from Moon Chariot’s music to Sir Guy of Warwick’s storytelling comedy to the Accidental Acrobats, a contortionist-cum-comedian duo.

The requisite merchants of swords, crystals, leather goods, tarot readings and other goodies will be in attendance as they are every year. Also returning is West Greenwich’s Elizabeth Clouse as Queen Anne III. The costume designer and Minnesota native will be joining Simpson, Morris and other actors on stage in staged musicals and scenarios throughout the faire. 

For a less choreographed experience, there’s not one but two objectifying (and, yes,18-plus) contests of bodily prowess. The cleavage contest on September 7 promises prizes for not only “Most Buxom Wench” but also the “Most Authentic 16th-Century Renaissance Dress Revealing Cleavage.” The masculine counterpart — the perhaps even more chest-baring “Clash of the Tartans” for “highland hunks” — is on October 5.

For those not worrying about their figure, there’s plenty of food, and the offerings are definitely more luxurious than a renaissance peasant’s typical diet of endless soup. Salt may have been scarce and expensive back then, but it’s bountiful in the faire’s cuisine, from the cartoonishly big turkey legs to shepherd’s pie and “dragon wings ’n fryes.”  

Should you fall in love with the faire’s signature mix of fantasy and history, why not join the unwashed masses and audition next year? It’s certainly what Morris recommends. People sometimes recognize him, asking, “Hey, aren’t you from King Richard’s Faire?”

His usual reply: “‘Why don’t you come and audition?’”

Apparently what’s demanded of the vassals hasn’t changed much since the 16th-century. All it takes is some work ethic and an allegiance to staying in character.  

Says Morris to hopeful villagers: “We look for enthusiasm and we look for drive… You don’t need to be a theater person.”

King Richard’s Faire runs weekends through Oct 20. Kids 3 and younger get in free.

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