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PHOTOS: Getting Into Character At The Kansas City Renaissance Festival

Julie Denesha

The dew was still on the grass in a parking area next to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival grounds in Bonner Springs, Kan., early Saturday morning.

Performers started to gather, on this opening day, putting finishing touches on elaborate Tudor-era costumes and practicing 16th century speech and accents. They huddled in groups, catching up on the latest news, before checking in at the gate. 

Dressed in henna-colored pirate garb, Krista Gray (Captain Cinn O’Lawt) sat in the back of a pickup truck tightening the leather garter on one of her thigh-high boots. Nearby, her 14-year-old daughter Brianna Gray (Sybil Eden Everbrook) was being laced into her corset. Since Brianna was a baby, mother and daughter have worked together at festivals and the two spoke fervently about the bonds between festival performers.

"The people I work with are like my other family," Brianna says.

"I think it is a bond performers share in general, but there’s a big difference between a stage performer and what we do,” Krista says. “Stage performers have to do the suspended disbelief like we do, but there is that fourth wall. They have the protection and the safety net to some degree of the stage, where we don’t.”

Brianna was soon dressed and had a royal meeting to attend, so she and her mother walked through the grass to start the day.

Name: Brianna Gray, 14 

Profession: Student

Renaissance Festival Character: Sybil Eden Everbrook

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 8

“There’s a certain romance about it that just drags people in,” says Gray. “It’s an escape from our reality. You are looking for that little bit of fantasy and fun and that is sort of what this is, but you also have your own connection with the people (performers) you work with.”

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR
Krista Gray as Captain Cinn O’Lawt.

Name: Krista Gray 

Renaissance Festival Character: Captain Cinn O’Lawt

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 18 

“I am Captain of the Sea Sirens. We are an all-female pirate group,” says Gray. “We wander the lanes and randomly accost and flirt with pretty much anybody. We have to convince you not only is this truly this time period and yes, fairies are real, but we have to convince you enough that you want to play and that you want to be a part of the fantasy, too.” 

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR
Eleanor Flowers as Princess Mary of England.

Name: Eleanor Flowers, 11

Profession: Student

Renaissance Festival Character: Princess Mary of England

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 4

“I do enjoy myself with acting and I love putting on shows and interacting with the patrons,” Flowers says. “They are always very lovely.”  

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR
Michael Bishop as Rowan Brownie of the Spring Court.

Name: Michael Bishop

Profession: IT Professional

Renaissance Festival Character: Rowan Brownie of the Spring Court

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 1

“This is my first year as a performer,” Bishop says. “But if you add it all up this is my 21st year of coming out to the Renaissance Festival in general -- since I graduated from high school in 1994.”  

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR
Pernell Thomas as Shabak the Nubian guard (from left) and Jasper Hudgins-Bradley as Ogun, Crown Prince of Nubia.

Name: Pernell Thomas

Profession: Plant worker

Renaissance Festival Character: Shabak Nubian guard 

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 1

“This is my first year performing and I love it all — the wine, the beer and the turkey legs,” Thomas says.


Name: Jasper Hudgins-Bradley

Profession: Scriptwriter

Renaissance Festival Character: Ogun, Crown Prince of Nubia

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 1

“I’ve come here several times and an opportunity came up to pull me in and have a character that I could have some pride in, instead of a slave or something,” Hudgins-Bradley says. “So I was more than happy to come add what I could.”

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR
The Sea Sirens crew: Allison Ontiveros as Amanda Dragov, (from left) Diane Glenn as Ahni D’Amore and Audrey Rice as Willie Finder.

Name: Allison Ontiveros

Renaissance Festival Character: Amanda Dragov, The Russian Pirate

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 4

“I’ve been coming here not since I was little, bitty tiny. I came in high school and I was an awkward kid in high school so here I am surrounded by a bunch of other nerdy, awkward people and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I found my home,'” Ontiveros says.


Name: Diane Glenn

Profession: Nurse

Renaissance Festival Character: Ahni D’Amore, the Italian Pirate

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 3

“I am the pink pirate,” says Glenn. “I am a breast cancer survivor.”


Name: Audrey Rice

Profession: Customer Service

Renaissance Festival Character: Willie Finder

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 17

“I came out here when I was a little girl and I had very fond memories of it and I like the idea that I like to make memories for other people now," says Rice.

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR
Abbey Briscoe as The French Princess Marguerite with her timepiece.

Name: Abbey Briscoe

Profession: Temporary Receptionist

Renaissance Festival Character: The French Princess Marguerite 

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 2

“I wanted to improve my acting skills and better myself at improv, because a lot of your time here is improv, but I come back because I have made so many friends here,” Briscoe says. “We are like a second family. And the joy you bring to the children it’s incredible.”

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR
Amie Montedoro as the Hair (from left) and Jeffrey Davis as Turtle of ’Turtle and the Hair.’

Name: Amie Montedoro

Profession: Hairdresser

Renaissance Festival Character: The Hair of “Turtle and the Hair,” on cello and vocals

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 20 

“I am a history nut,” says Montedoro. “I love the history of it and the music has stuck with me my whole life.”


Name: Jeffrey Davis

Profession: Graphic Designer

Renaissance Festival Character: Turtle of “Turtle and the Hair” on guitar and vocals

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 25

“We sing songs that are two and three hundred years old that people still love hearing,” says Davis. “Who wouldn’t love to get to play around in their pajamas, strum on a guitar all day and make people smile — just make ‘em smile.”

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR
Jacob Solum as Sangreal.

Name: Jacob Solum

Profession: Leather Worker

Renaissance Festival Character: Sangreal

Number of years at the Renaissance Festival: 5

“I make everything out of leather,” Solum says. “I made my costume from head to toe — every single thing. The first year I didn’t get a part in a high school play so I came out here instead. The people and the friends. It’s what keeps me coming back.”

The Kansas City Renaissance Festival continues through October 13, at 633 N. 130th Street, Bonner Springs, Kan. 913-721-2110. 

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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