Entertainment

Behind the characters of King Richard’s Faire

They play kings and queens inside the realm, but they’re also accountants and postal workers in the outside world.

Today marks the 34th annual opening day of King Richard’s Faire in Carver, Massachusetts, which has become something of a local institution for history-lovers and adventure seekers alike. It’s the longest-running Renaissance fair in Massachusetts, filling each day with interactive storylines and performances, jousting, acrobats, magicians, and minstrels.

The rise of Con culture in the past decade is one of many things keeping the spirit and attendance of the Faire strong. Now, many attendees are what assistant entertainment director Ryan Roy refers to as “playtrons,’’ dressing in characters from various members of the royal court to more modern, unrelated costumes like storm troopers. In many ways, the Faire was a Con before Cons were even a thing. For many years, King Richard’s Faire was the only place of its kind in Massachusetts, and continues to bring a sense of community to role players, medieval hobbyists, and other fans of history and theater.

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These days, roughly 1,000 people work at the Faire, and just about all of them dress in character. Because the Faire is a seasonal event, most workers have other full- or part-time employment, so we caught up with five characters to find out how their lives in costume compare with their lives outside the realm.

Kristin McAteer

Age: 43

Years: 10th season

Role: Beer Wench

Hails from: Plymouth, MA

Occupation: Accounting and internal controls.

“It’s very structured and rigid, what I do outside of here. But then I come here and I get to joke and laugh. By the end of every season I say ‘M’Lord’ and ‘M’Lady’ so often that sometimes I bring ‘M’Lord’ and ‘M’Lady’ into my full-time job, and I’ll have to correct myself.

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Frank Dixon

Age: 56

Years: 22nd season

Role: Heyo the Jester

Hails from: Natick, MA

Occupation: Buyer at Boston Medical Center. Also works one or two nights a week at Medieval Manor.

“I’ve been a jester all my life, but this is the place where you can do it and they pay you for it. Right now, I’m living a good dream where I have a nine-to-five job that pays the bills, and I work at Medieval Manor, which is a Boston institution. Once a year, I come here every weekend to work at another institution that’s been around for 40 years, and I’m not running around the country. … I’ve got some great opportunities.’’

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Charisse Shields

Age: 29

Years: 6th season

Role: Princess Drizelda

Occupation: Former postal worker, just finished an internship in Utah with an opera company. Also works as a lifeguard.

Hails from: Lunenberg, MA

“I literally count down the days to this like it’s Christmas. I plan my life around coming back here year after year. I love the people that I work with so much, it’s my other family. The best part is coming home and seeing my family grow. Especially the little kids that I’ve known since it was my first year as a princess and I didn’t know what I was doing. The littlest ones were six years old when I started and now they’re going to be twelve. It’s awesome to watch.’’

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Kelly Feetham

Age: 25

Years: Third season

Role: Princess Citronella of Champagne, France (closer to the ‘good’ side of the spectrum)

Occupation: Birthday performer specializing in princesses. Also works at a grocery store part-time.

Hails from: Holbrook, MA

“The immersive experience — the people you see, the conversations you can’t hear anywhere else, the jousting, everything combined — that’s the fun part. Honestly, I could keep being a princess [for a while]. You don’t have as much responsibility as the queen, but I mean, people bow to me. You don’t get that at the grocery store.’’

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Tom Epstein

Age: 57

Years: 22nd season (14th as King)

Role: King Richard X

Occupation: Worked for the environmental agency in Rhode Island for 33 years.

Hails from: Carver, MA

Other hobbies: Traditional archery, reading history.

“No matter how hot and sweaty and uncomfortable it can get, something so delightful can happen to make it all worth it. The prior queen was a very special person. We have a knighting ceremony at the end of each day where, at the time, she was in charge and she’d talk to the kids about essentially being good people. She had a very magical way of doing that. These kids, some of them five years old, seven years old, would really listen. I mean, this is a queen talking to them. Later on, at the end of one day, I saw her talking to one of the little girls that was there and she was asking her, ‘Do you remember you made this promise?’ and ‘Do you remember you made that promise?’ The little girl was so caught up with talking to the queen about the right way to behave, and the queen was doing this all after a hot, difficult day, and was still so invested in it. I was just crying, watching this magical moment at the end of the day. Those happen all the time.’’

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King Richard’s Faire is open 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday holiday from September 5 to October 25. Tickets are $29 for adults and $16 for children under 12. Check the Faire’s website for a complete listing of events.

Ways to spend Labor Day in Boston:

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