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Bringing the Renaissance to Life at King Richard’s Faire

An audience with the king and queen of King Richard's Faire, the longest-running Renaissance faire in New England.

king richards faire

(Photo: King Richard's Faire)

Ever since 1982, the realm of Carvershire has opened its gates to modern-day visitors for eight weekends of Renaissance-era fun. Nestled in the woods of Carver, Mass., “Carvershire” is the site of King Richard’s Faire, the biggest and longest-running Renaissance faire in New England.

I wanted to gain more insight into this fanciful faire, which runs weekends Sept. 1 through Oct. 21. So I contacted Tom Epstein, who plays the eponymous King Richard X, and Elizabeth Crouse, who plays Queen Anne III. The interviews are edited for length and clarity.

Learn how you can save up to $4 on admission to King Richard’s Faire. 

An audience with the queen

I spoke to Elizabeth Crouse first, and got some insight on her debut season as the queen.

Your AAA: Is this your first year working at King Richard’s Faire?

EC: It is. I’m so excited! I’ve done a lot of costume work for other faires around the nation. My family and I visited last year, and we had such a great time.

Your AAA: Do you have a favorite show at the faire?  

EC: I would have to say the Sturdy Beggars Mud Show! Last year when we came to the faire, my kids and my husband and I had such a hoot. There’s innuendos that go over the kids’ heads but will really get the adults laughing. The Washing Well Wenches are another of my favorites. Those ladies are hysterical.

Your AAA: What will a typical faire day be like for you?

EC: A typical faire day for me is that I will get there earlier, and everyone will be there all in costume before the gates open. We might go over some musical numbers – we have a new musical comedy this year that features the entire court!

The gates open at 10:30 and there’s a whole ceremony. The king and the court and I will be looking down on everyone (maybe harassing people) and welcoming them into the community.

There’s the one musical number twice a day, there’s jousting going on through the day that culminates in a grand joust. There’s always live entertainment and shopping – my personal favorite.

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Your AAA: What’s the costume like? Is it very hot?

EC: It usually is! I’m a designer, and I create different historical gowns and wedding dresses for my day job. I have been working on this year’s costume, and I’m thrilled. Some of the fabric is the most expensive that I’ve worked with. Some of it has actual gold in the material. Still, it’s quite comfortable. The site at King Richard’s Faire is this beautiful forest, so it has a lot of shade.

Your AAA: What does Queen Anne think of the faire? Will she have a good time?

EC: Oh, of course! Queen Anne will have an excellent time! I’m thrilled to be joining this cast and to be able to entertain people – but also to be served and adored by people. As a full-time mom, going from making peanut-butter sandwiches to having someone bring me food is great.

Your AAA: Why do you think people keep coming back to the faire?

EC: There’s always something going on and something new to see. Last year I would come in costume, and every time I came I would see something different. The performers love escaping reality, and we want our guests to have a good time escaping reality too.

king richard's faire

(Photo: King Richard’s Fair)

An audience with the King

There would be no King Richard’s Faire without King Richard! I spoke to Tom Epstein about his history with the faire and his time wearing the crown.

Your AAA: How long have you been performing at the faire?

TE: This will be my 25th season and my 17th as king. I played the royal cook for years.

Your AAA: How did you first get involved?

TE: I did theater in high school, but then I went to engineering school at Brown University and didn’t have time for that. I became an environmental regulator. You’re trying to get people to do things they don’t want to do, and you’re butting heads a lot.

After 10 years, I needed an outlet where people would be happy to see me. I got back into acting with the Cumberland Company, and then I went along with some friends to a King Richard’s Faire audition.

They were looking for someone to play a new character: The royal cook. I was big and loud and could carry a tune, so I got it.

Your AAA: How does it feel to be king?

TE: You know, I’ve enjoyed it so much, coming back for 25 years. This is where I met my wife, and we’ve been together for 14 years. It’s a wonderful thing.

Your AAA: Do you have any favorite faire memories or stories?

TE: Of course I do. I remember one day, a former queen (alas, I was never able to be her king), was saying goodbye to everyone at the end of the day at the balcony in front of the gatehouse. I was the cook still. The queen was curtsying down next to a 5-year-old girl. Bodge – her real name – was reminding the girl about the things she learned at princess school, like how to be kind and thoughtful and considerate. To be a good person. The girl was looking at her with complete attention. They just connected so beautifully. Even though I was sweaty and tired, I started crying. Thinking about it, I still cry.

Your AAA: What is a typical faire day like for you?

TE: We open with a sketch at the gatehouse, and we open the gates at 10:30 a.m. We welcome everyone. Some of the acts do little snippets and juggle and such.

We have eight stages, so it’s not a three-ring circus – it’s an eight-ring circus. We have the big cats, and the jousting during the day.

Your AAA: What’s your costume like? Is it very hot?

TE: Beautiful! I do a quarter of the work and the costume does the rest. I’m having a doublet made to match the queen’s new gown, which she is making herself! On a hot day we are hot, so be kind to us.

Your AAA: Do you have a favorite show at the faire?  

TE: I wouldn’t say “favorite,” but every year we do a musical parody show. It’s very fun. I love the Washing Well Wenches, and Jacques Ze Whipper. The Mud Show is ever-popular.

Your AAA: What does King Richard think of the faire? Does he have a good time?

TE: Of course! Of course! It’s a village he visits every year during their marketplace celebration. If he didn’t love it, I suppose he wouldn’t visit. It’s the highlight of his year.

Your AAA: Why do you think people keep coming back to the faire?

TE: It can be what you want. We’re not a historically accurate faire, we don’t worry about that. It’s an escape: one day, 1,000 memories. There’s stuff for the kids, like a knight school, a princess academy, and a knighting ceremony for the knights and dames. People dress up in fabulous costumes. There’s a guy with a set of custom leather armor that is spectacular. And don’t forget about the enormous turkey legs!

Have you ever been to King Richard’s Faire? Do you want to go? Let us know in the comments below! 

Use your AAA discount to save on admission to King Richard’s Faire. 

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