The year is 1520. The king is Henry the Eighth. The place is the village of Pleasance, in southern England.
Actually, the nearest village is Tum Tum, Wash., and the place is about 18 miles northwest of Spokane. But when the Northwest Renaissance Festival opens this weekend, the 47 performers intend to make you feel as if you’re witnessing a historic meeting between Henry the Eighth of England and Charles the Fifth, Holy Roman Emperor.
This 20-acre site on Nine Mile Falls Road (State Route 291) will ring with the sounds of lutes, swords and lances. It’s the first permanent Renaissance festival site in the Northwest and a major undertaking for director Tienne Rogers and her partner Gerald Whitehurst.
Forty-seven actors will perform at the site every Saturday and Sunday through Aug. 6. The site, which consists of field and forest, will be covered with pavilions (and in ensuing years, with a planned permanent village).
“The atmosphere of a Renaissance festival is wonderful,” said Rogers. “You smile, you look at everyone as you walk; it’s person-to-person. There is no amplification. It’s good for the soul.”
They hope to attract 1,000 spectators a day at $10 each, with 3,000 per day toward the end of the run in August.
For Rogers and Whitehurst, who are life partners as well as business partners, it is a family undertaking. Her daughter has worked six years in Renaissance festivals. Rogers has also been involved in festivals, but her profession is civil engineer (nuclear). She worked in nuclear engineering for 18 years before deciding on this most extreme of career changes.
“We were sitting around a little over a year ago, and someone said this area didn’t have a Renaissance festival, and somebody said, ‘We ought to do one,”’ said Rogers, who lived many years in Central Washington but was living in Connecticut at the time. “It’s like a light went on.”
They never even considered having it in the Seattle area; they wanted it on the “dry side of the state,” even though the population base is smaller. They finally found the site near Tum Tum, which they feel is ideal.
“Renaissance festivals usually draw people from several hours away,” she said. “We’ll pull from Canada, Montana and Idaho.”
Spectators are encouraged to make a day of it. The festivities begin at 10 a.m., with an opening ceremony at the gates of the village. The Lord Mayor, Sir Roger Thornhurst (played by local actor William Marlowe), will lead the spectators into the village to witness the historic meeting between Emperor Charles the Fifth and King Henry the Eighth of England, played by George Cookus and Brian Thornton. They will introduce their courts, and then spectators are invited to wander the grounds.
There will be several different stage areas, with plays and entertainment going every hour. There will be crafts booths and demonstrations of such Renaissance arts as armor-making. Musicians will wander the area, and a “wizard,” (Matt Van Zee) will perform magic.
In addition, the costumed actors stroll the entire site, interacting with each other and with the spectators. Some of the actors are from the “Renaissance family,” coming in from other Renaissance fairs, but most are local people hired through auditions here in May.
Special daily events include:
A living chess match, in which the monarchs play a game of chess using their subjects as chess pieces.
Horse demonstrations and games, featuring a “gypsy troupe.”
A full-combat jousting match between the two monarchs.
These things are included in the cost of the ticket. For an additional charge, spectators can participate in games such as darts, archery and twirlywhop, which can best be described as “standing on a log and trying to beat each other with a pillow.”
Food is available at an additional charge.
Rogers said the entertainment will change weekly, with some events added as the festival grows.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: THE NORTHWEST RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL Days and hours: Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 6, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets: $10, $5 for children 5-12 Location: Between mileposts 18 and 19 on Nine Mile Falls Road (State Route 291), just before Willow Bay. Signs will direct cars into the five-acre parking lot. Parking is free.