Texas Renaissance Festival: Fun From the Inside Out

Everyone has heard of the Texas Renaissance Festival. You dress up, you eat, drink and be merry. It really is a good time and to be outdoors in the gorgeous trees…well it is a rarity these days so it is a nice change of pace.

DISH was interested in going a little deeper into the festival. What does it take to put it on and who is behind the shows and the shops?

We started with a show we fell in love with last year. It is hysterical, irreverent, well acted…in the way that you can only be that cheesy if you are that good…and only semi family friendly. Think dirty Shakespeare on loads of caffeine.

Sound and Fury is a vaudeville-nouveau trio, who present original comic genre-parody plays. Using frequent audience participation Sound & Fury makes their works light & accessible, and non-threatening to a modern audience with limited attention spans….like DISH and buzzed Faire attendees. 

DISH: How long has Sound and Fury been around

Richard: I have been doing this for 15 years and during a cast change up I had hired Patrick. I was on the verge of hiring the third person, this was four years ago, when Patrick told me he had the perfect person in mind. He introduced me to Ryan and that was it. He was and is perfect round out for this trio. We have been going strong for 4 years and travel the world participating in Fringe Festivals. The one in Adelaide, Australia is a competition of over 900 performing groups and we’ve won the “People’s Choice Award” three times and “Best of Fringe” at the Winnipeg & Edmonton Fringe Festivals in 2006 and 2007 so we’re doing something right.

DISH: Why do you come back to TRF every year?

Group: It is the biggest.

DISH: What about New York?

Richard: New York likes to say it is the biggest but by square footage alone this is the biggest. Plus the numbers are huge here. Where else can you put 1400 folks in seats 4 times a day and make all of them laugh? Texas has a great crowd and the people are nice. Ryan lives here now, I travel back to LA most weeks and Patrick (who is totally hot and we are pretty sure is single) will stay with friends. Believe it or not we can actually sleep here at the theatre if we want to. Texas Ren Fest really has an amazing set up.

DISH: Your shows are pretty adult:

Richard: Yes, they are and we tell people that up front. There are a couple of shows that are kid friendly. We play those when schools bus their kids in for a field trip. Hamlet and Juliet for instance is available for schools. There are a few “adult” references but nothing too racy and the kids make that connection. All of the sudden Shakespeare is interesting and fun to them. It makes a difference.

The Sound and Fury can be seen 4 times a day at the Odeon Theatre. NOTE: Please tip and/or buy merch.

More family friendly shows might be Arsene, a magician also at the Odeon Theatre, Birds of Prey at the Falconer Stage, the jousting is always fun at the Arena and there are loads of games for kids of all ages.

DISH also sat down with Cody Dalton, the general manager of Eternal Arms. They sell high quality, historically accurate arms and armor. Cody has been with company 9 months. This follows a few years of being a performer at another Texas Faire. Eternal Arms has three locations at three Texas Faires and has been at TRF for 2 years, the TRF location being their newest

DISH: What is it like for a business owner out here at TRF?

Cody: It’s a more than full time job. Managing the business I have loads more work involved outside of faire hours. I am ordering product, keeping inventory full, dealing with payroll, hiring and managing employees and the general running of the business. None of this can happen during the hours the store is open. I am the general manager of all three but they are all open at different times of the year.

DISH: Do you prefer being a performer or a shop manager, since you’ve been both? 

Cody: Being a performer is much easier because I only had to perform during the shows and that was it. Being a shop manager is more fulfilling though. I am a disabled veteran so this has given me a purpose again. I served in the Army in two over seas tours.

DISH: Do you pay to be there and give a % of sales to TRF or just one or the other?  

Cody: There is a fee to be there but all of the sales are kept as a business owner. So it is a good business plan.

DISH: What is the atmosphere like?

Cody: I get to dress up in funny clothes everyday and enjoy myself. I get to laugh with others and make friends and everyone is in a great mood. The atmosphere is amazing. I would not enjoy my job nearly as much if I were set up in a mall.

DISH: Between the businesses, is it friendly or competitive?  

Cody: The Fair does a great job in distributing similar businesses throughout the grounds so there isn’t that much competition and although our merchandise is similar to what you might find out there it won’t be the same. Ours is high end material and historically based so it will be more expensive but people come looking for it. There are a lot of collectors out there!

DISH: Do you find it more family friendly or adult?

Cody: It varies depending on the weekend theme. Barbarian weekend is basically considered the “naked” weekend. We love the crowd here. They are so friendly and highly involved in the booth and the product. I never stop loving seeing the shock and awe on people’s faces when they come into the booth and appreciate the detail of our work.

And there you have it. Even the performers and shop owners/manager enjoy this experience. Hope you go out and experience it yourself soon.