Bristol Renaissance Faire | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bristol Renaissance Faire 

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There are two kinds of people in the world: those who hate to dress up for even normal formal occasions and those who embrace every available opportunity to put on a costume. Like all Renaissance fairs, Bristol--full of falconry and jousting and shyuk-yuk swordsmen telling amusingly anachronistic post-Freudian jokes--is fun mostly thanks to the latter. This year the Faire, which has as its ongoing premise a visit of Queen Elizabeth I and her court to the seaside town of Bristol, features the Dreadnought, a replica of a period sailing ship, moored in a small lake for sailing demos, history lessons, and yet more off-color jokes. Each day is organized around a very vaguely scripted "story" in an ongoing "plot" of pomp, pageantry, and intrigue, and many of the actors are very, very good, especially when they're publicly humiliating you. The attendees themselves can be even more fun to watch. I have yet to see anyone dressed as a plague victim or burned heretic, but their costuming fantasies are hardly strictly limited to proper Elizabethan garb. And then there's the shopping: streets upon streets of vendors offering wares ranging from the sublime (history books galore, intensely researched costume patterns, pottery, blown glass, and leather crafts) to the ridiculous (fairy wings, pewter dragon tchotchkes, "Elven love rings"). It's technically in Wisconsin--though so on-the-border the parking lot is in Illinois--but it's situated in spirit in the realm of geekery at its proudest and most beautiful. Sat-Sun 7/6-9/3 and Mon 9/4, 10 AM-7 PM, 12550 120th Ave., Kenosha, Wisconsin, 847-395-7773 or renfair.com, $18.95, $9.95 children, $85 season pass, early-bird discounts available.

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