As first-time vistors to the Maryland fair in 1991, they dressed to impress, wearing the slashed doublets, colored hose and feathered berets of the Landsknechts - mercenary warriors from Germany who hired out their services across Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries.
A few revelers recognized the costumes. Larry met the Henry VIII of that time, actor Bill Huttel, and the Peterkas were invited to get involved the following year. They've been regulars ever since.
The pair proved themselves gradually, first by running a juggling school, then by using their improvisational acting skills and displaying encyclopedic knowledge of Tudor English life. Today, both are actors who can work formal stage plays as well as do improv, in character, in the streets of Revel Grove, the festival's faux village.
That versatility is unusual. "We have many trained stage actors who get nervous doing anything spontaneous," artistic director Spedden says, "and we have living history experts who wouldn't think to get onstage for 'Twelfth Night.' Larry and Paula do both."
They also oversee the Company of St. George, a troupe that runs a popular living history exhibit, Hengrove Hall, in which actors like Rick Herlinger, a West Virginia physician, share the workings of a typical Tudor-era household. Paula makes hats for many of the 150 cast members, and this year Larry, who just became certified in armored jousting, doubles as a combatant.
As entertainment directors, they also help cast shows, choosing actors in the grueling audition process they once faced. Candidates must present rehearsed passages and perform improvised skits on the spot.
"They have a different background, coming out of California," Spedden says. "In a world like this, where everybody pitches in, that's invaluable. Pardon the pun, but Larry and Paula are Renaissance men."