Festival allows Renaissance men and women to show off talents

September 01, 1991|By Michael J. Clark

Except on a hot and humid Maryland summer day, "It's good to be the king," said Bill Huttel, the burly actor who plays Henry VIII at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville.

Wearing 30 pounds of costume that included a velvet gown, the 6-foot-7, 330-pound festival king took his belt in two notches yesterday afternoon.

That's not to say the king doesn't eat heartily: He chomped on smoked turkey legs and steak on stake at a royal feast and downed as many as 10 huge mugs of water and soda to keep himself buoyant for the crowd that assembled in the 18-acre Renaissance village.

The festival, which began Aug. 24 and continues on weekend days through Oct. 13, is expected to draw more than last year's 142,000 total.

Julius C. Smith, a real estate lawyer from Minneapolis, is the main investor in the festival.

He said that the event expands each year and that it added four acres to its walled village this summer, including a replica of the Globe Theater.

The festival started in Columbia 15 years ago and moved to the Crownsville site in the mid-1980s. Now, its walls stay up all year.

A visitor can spend as little as $1.50 for cookies and milk or as much as $530 for a black silk jacket designed by an English tailor.

The most popular show remains the mud pit, where the audiences are the most raucous and the performers the dirtiest.

Rush Pearson, a short man with long, blond hair and a pointed beard who is one of the principal mud men, asked the crowd yesterday, "How many of you have seen a mud show before?"

A lot of hands went up, and it prompted Mr. Pearson to retort, "You're sick."

He went on to say that the mud pit is the "cultural extravaganza of the fair."

No Renaissance community can be without a town liar, and Ben Howard, 22, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, plays the role to the hilt.

In his moldy pantaloons and his white shirt, he continually fibs to strolling patrons.

"Tell me where the bathroom is," said a customer.

The town liar pointed to a cluster of buildings and said, "Around the corner."

Sure enough, the customer shouted back, "You're lying."

The town liar answered, "No, I'm sitting."

Maryann Jung, an actress from Bowie who played Anne Boleyn, one of King Henry's unfortunate wives, said that the job of the king in the royal court was "to remember to just look regal."

The red-faced king, mopping sweat from his face, said, "I try not to let the role go to my head."

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