Regarding The Golden Age of King Richard's Faire of Kenosha, WisconsinEdit
King Richard's Faire, an Illinois/Wisconsin renaissance faire existed from 1972 until 1988 and was a live interactive experience set inside a decorated forested area where actors dressed in period costume and fairgoers were active participants in planned and impromptu events.
Actors and musicians in costume roamed the fairgrounds on foot and on horseback creating a variety of performances on the spot such as playing the pipes, live jousts (fencing matches), short plays or reading aloud the "latest writings" of Shakespeare.
Trinkets and snacks were close at hand as maidens roamed the grounds with baskets laden with theme food items which included "magic popcorn" (kettle corn), "jars of mead" (beer) and "sweet water" (Cola). It was commonplace to be jeered at by a jester in a tree or a passing court performer as the actors would encourage fairgoers to interact with them by asking entertaining questions or passing a comment upon approach in a whimsical 16th-century Shakespearean baroque.
In 1972, inspired by the Minnesota Renaissance faire near Shakopee, "Company 7" rock concert promoter Richard Shapiro, and his wife, Bonnie (Harris) Shapiro, parents of journalist, TV host and actress Samantha Harris, first produced a small event in a corn field near Chicago, Illinois.
In 1973 the Faire moved to a wooded farm property near Antioch, IL, east of 45 on Edwards Road. (This early faire (1973-1975) included a "slave market" concept where volunteer participants were "sold" to patron bidders to lug their packages or fetch their food.
1975 and 1976, the Faire was located next to Midlane Country Club , Delany Road, Gurnee, IL. One of the street performances included a sketch called Dante's Inferno. Among the cast members was Michael Dvorak who later became KRF's Music Director, Special Events Coordinator and was responsible for performer scheduling. Also in the cast were members of the original Jongleurs.
The Early YearsEdit
From 1972 to 1978, Richard, King Richard, and Bonnie Shapiro dressed in elaborate royal attire, opened the gates, wandered the site and greeted patrons. John Mills was Artistic Director from 1973 to 1987 (with the exception of 1974)
In a transition toward more theatricality as well as a PR move, actor Jim Belushi was contracted to portray the King. He lasted one weekend.
In 1977 and 1978, the early equestrian Jousts were performed by a southside Chicago group named "Knights of the Silver Sword." The Hanlon-Lees Action Theatre was hired to joust after 1979 and has continued (with one interruption during the Bristol take-over) to this day.
Memorable 1980s King Richard's Faire of Kenosha, Wisconsin PerformersEdit
For multiple seasons during the 1980s ( when comedy on the stages and streets at the Kenosha, Wisconsin fairesite was King! ) the late and multi-talented Chicago actor-singer-comedian and master puppeteer Ray Nelson ( the Emmy award-winning television producer of WBBM TV's "The Magic Door" and Founder of The Windy City's Puppet Place Theatre ) delighted, amused and charmed audiences with his portrayal of King Richard. Mr. Nelson, a rather large and robust entertainer, became a popular favorite as King Richard among patrons, performers and vendors alike - especially when he would burst into song or break out the puppets!
In 1986, veteran and award-winning Chicago stage actor Darryl Maximilian Robinson ( a future 1997 Joseph Jefferson Citation Award Winner as Best Actor for his performance as Sam Semela in The Excaliber Shakespeare Company of Chicago revival production of Athol Fugard's "Master Harold And The Boys" ) was cast by Artistic Director John Mills and comedy writers Patty McKenny and Doug Frew to create the role of The Grand Inquisitor Of Spain, Tomas de Torquemada in "Murder, They Quoth," KRF's big musical-comedy-mystery Grand Scenario. In the summer seasons of 1988 and 1989, Mr. Robinson would return to the fairesite ( under the new Bristol Renaissance Faire management and with the full support of Entertainment Director Michael Dvorak ) to portray Shakespearean actor and time-traveler, His Most Revered Lordship, Sir Richard Drury Kemp-Kean, in his critically-praised, original one-man show of Shakespeare and time-travel comedy, "A Bit Of The Bard" upon the intimate and lovely Minstrel's Glen Stage, and to serve as Director and Instructor of Shakespearean Theatre (utilizing trained classical theatre students in seven scenes by the bard around the faire grounds throughout the festival day) for the newly formed Bristol Theatre Academy.
During the years of The Grand Scenario being a centerpiece of entertainment at the Kenosha, Wisconsin fairesite, some of the most striking and effective costumes seen at King Richard's Faire were the work of skilled Costume Designer Richard D. Weber, who proved not only a wiz at wardrobe for the large court of King Richard, but a wonderful actor-singer-comedian and swordsman. Mr. Weber became noted at KRF in Kenosha and KRF in Carver, Mass. for his outstanding portrayal of Sir Percival Degage'.
The Chicago Branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) also performed scheduled Tourneys on foot, with the combatants wielding rattan swords in full contact, unrehearsed competitions. Among that cast were Dean Calin (Robin Balagan), Eric Forsberg (Erik the Dark), Andrea Dubnick (Sonja of Prague), and Maria Kumpf (Maria the Mad).