Get ready to rumble, Hoggetowne style – Gainesville Sun

Aja Dorsey gets hit by another actress during the final rehearsal of "Adventures of Robin Hood" during Sunday

“One: You’re going to give me back my hat. Two: You’re going into time-out.”

Swordless, hatless, his confidence betraying a slight Australian accent, Robin Hood says this for the second time. His opponent, a smug princess no older than 15 (the same from earlier), grins. Her steel dagger catches the sun.

We know how this goes. The princess charges low and Robin Hood dances left, plucking his cap off her head and returning it to its rightful place atop his own.

“One!” he gloats.

She charges once more, this time losing the dagger in a kerfuffle of fake punches and choreographed takedowns. Robin Hood finishes her with a punch scored to the slap of his chest. He twirls to face the crowd.


The crowd roars.

At Sunday’s dress rehearsal for the Living Chess Board at the 32nd annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, the crowd — a smattering of proud parents and renaissance enthusiasts — delights in this lo-fi spectacle. It doesn’t matter that the punches miss they’re targets by inches; or that the actors range in age from 12 to over 30. They’re not here for some new, subversive take on Robin Hood or for a glimpse at the cast of Game of Thrones.

The actors, unpaid, and the audience, also unpaid, come to revel in geeky, honest fun. To play.

Around 50,000 people came to the Alachua County Fairgrounds to play last year, according to Candice Chambers, director of the Living Chess Board. She expects a similar turnout for this year’s event, which will run for two weekends starting Saturday.

“We get people from Alabama, we get people from Miami, we’ve had people from Japan” she said. One year, Chambers’ friend accidentally handed her 1-year-old daughter to a group of Japanese tourists. She laughs. “Thankfully, they gave her back.”

The faire, er, the Kingdom of Hoggetowne, showcases all manner of medieval fun, ranging from actual horseback jousts to renaissance troubadours to the distinctly American giant turkey leg. It offers visitors a chance to escape for two weekends into fantasy, to don corset and tunic, and walk among craftsmen and court jesters.

This year’s theme, the third in a rotation that includes King Arthur and a variable historical period, focuses on Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men as they battle to rescue the townspeople from crippling taxation.

It brings with it one new show: Robem Good and his Merry Mule, a comic tale, as event coordinator Sunshine Andrei puts it, of “mule smarter than man.”

Actors in the Robin Hood set walk amongst and interact with faire patrons over the course of the two weekends. During shows, Princess Joan and Prince John sit for short periods in the bleachers, jeering at combatants on the Living Chess Board and sharing commentary with audience members.

Auditions for the roles took place in June of last year and the selected actors rehearsed — training with real weapons, writing and choreographing their own scenes (with help from professional fight coordinators) — 12 hours a week every week since August.

“It’s been such a long road,” said the Maid Marian, played by Mollie Gillis-Lassiter. “To see where people started and to see how far they’ve come and the friendships and skill they have now — it’s a really great thing to watch.”

She says they just want the patrons to come starting Saturday to be entertained, and maybe to “think about trying something new, of joining [their acting troupe] and having fun with [them].”

Judging by the actors’ smiles, stubborn despite 2½ hours of wrestling in thick cloaks on an unusually warm winter day, that doesn’t seem, as they say in Hoggetowne, too bolde a wish.

What: 32nd annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, celebrating the Middle Ages with costumed performers, jousting, living chess game, artisans marketplace, food and more.

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Feb. 3-4; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on School Day, Feb. 2

Where: Alachua County Fairgrounds, 2900 NE 39th Ave.

Tickets: $18, $8 for ages 5-17, free for ages 5 and younger; $9 adults, $4 children and free for ages 5 and younger on Feb. 2

Info: 334-ARTS,

If you go

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