by Sheri Boggs
"Good day, miladies." We hadn't even entered the Renaissance village of Pleasance yet and already we had made a new friend. The speaker, a young girl of about 15, curtsied and introduced herself as Lady Mary, then introduced us to Lady Minette, an aging tabby who struggled to climb out of Lady Mary's embrace.
Amy and I looked at each other. The shots of espresso we'd pounded back in Spokane hadn't quite prepared for us for the experience of walking into someone else's rich fantasy life.
"Hello," said Amy.
"Good day," I nodded, getting into the parlance of Pleasance.
As ambassadors from Ye Olde Inlander in the faraway land of Spokane, we seemed to attract more than the usual attentions due visitors to this 1536 English village. Passing several small "shops," the inhabitants glowered out at us from the shadows. One person was even heard breaking character, asking another, "Hey, do you still have my black nail polish?" Others were far more successful -- for instance, one of our guides, Caleb Carlinoni, who - when asked where he was from - grinned conspiratorially and said, "Why, here, of course. And this is not a 'costume.' These are my clothes."
We had arrived just in time for a performance of the "Bedlam Bards" - Hawke the Balladeer and Sir Cedric the Fiddler. "Mental illness set to music," they proudly proclaimed of their style, while the crowd shouted "Huzzah! Huzzah!" Lady Mary was nothing if not attentive, but Amy and I were eager to explore the village on our own. In one of the shops we met Holly the Gypsy (aka Tara Mickschl) who proved to be an invaluable resource on getting the lowdown on Pleasance.
"When you come here, it's like experiencing a play for a day," Mickschl explained, adding that unlike many Renaissance Festivals, the 10-year-old Northwest Renaissance Festival follows a plot from beginning to end each day, with all sorts of activities and mini-plots in between. We had the opportunity to witness this moments later at the human Chess Match, where King Henry VIII's wavering affections caused a bit of a chessboard catfight between Lady Jane Seymour and Queen Anne Boleyn.
Commitments from the 21st century beckoned, but we weren't going to make it out of Pleasance without attracting the notice of the local Lothario, Sir Cedric. "I see they have not taught you any of the courtly graces at The Inlander," he remonstrates, trying to kiss my hand and make eye contact at the same time. Yeah, courtly graces aren't exactly a big priority at the Inlander, pal.... After almost having to use pepper spray to get by, we safely returned to all the advantages of our own century - the tape deck, the less cumbersome clothing and above all, the fast car.
Publication date: 07/01/04