Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival returns — with ‘A Murder Most Foul’
All is not well in Morelandshire, a mythical kingdom in South Huntington Township, Westmoreland County that comes alive for six special weekends as part of the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival.
“This year we have ‘A Murder Most Foul,’ ” says James “Doc” Amor, cast director and entertainment coordinator for the annual festival depicting life in 16th-century England. The plot revolves around the mayor of Morelandshire, who is missing.
“His office is in disarray and there is some reddish stain on the floor. Is he missing, dead or just a messy eater?” Amor asks. “Also, the Duchess of Buckingham has come to court for the first time since her husband’s execution for treason. Allegations as to who may have murdered the mayor are flying about. And to top it all off, it’s the Queen’s birthday and the King wants it to be special.”
Scott Walton of Blairsville is back for his third season as King Henry VIII, with his wife, Queen Anne Boleyn (Anne Rematt of Monroeville), a couple in a marriage that historically doesn’t end well for the queen.
6 festival weekends
The drama plays out during festival weekends Aug. 17-18 through Sept. 21-22.
Amor, who served as king for eight years before moving into his current managerial role, has been involved in Renaissance fairs with his family including his wife, Patti, and sons Jimmy and Billy, since 1998, performing in festivals in four states over the years.
“Through it all my wife has made all the costuming for our family and for the cast at Pittsburgh,” he says.
Pittsburgh is a very nice event that harkens back to how Renaissance festivals were when they first started, Amor says.
“It is a special community of artists, vendors and performers who make a magical village for six weeks every year. It is a little like Brigadoon,” he says. “It is just big enough in my opinion that you can interact with the performers if you want to. The entertainment is a great value for the price of admission and it is affordable fun for the whole family.”
Jimmy Amor, who was just 7 years old when he began working at Renaissance fairs with his family, will be portraying Sir Frederick Elmstret, the First Duke of Calais, at the Pittsburgh event. He joined the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival in 2009 and graduated in 2013 from Seton Hill University, where he performed in stage productions including “Blood Relations” and “Running in Traffic.”
“What I like best about this festival is the magic that we make each and every day,” he says. “Every day that a patron walks through our gates whether it has been a year or a week since their last visit, our cast makes them feel like it is a completely new experience through new friendly characters and townspeople greeting them and the day’s scenario that is ever-changing.”
“We are a living and breathing history book,” he says. “We entangle historical characters with fantastical elements to insure that each guest goes home each day with memories to tell for years.”
Besides the interaction of the characters, the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival features a variety of entertainers and more than 100 artisans in the marketplace, selling their wares and demonstrating crafts such as glassblowing, leather working, blacksmithing, glass etching and pottery glazing and firing.
New additions this year include the Squire of Wire, a comedy show with “outrageous stunts, fire and knives and the world’s only over-the-audience kilted tight wire walker,” and the Vodca Family, a touring group of musicians, dancers and improv comedians.
Other attractions will include a haunted dungeon, pony rides and other rides, as well as archery, ax throwing, break-a-plate and other games. Royal kitchens will offer traditional Renaissance fare prepared onsite.
Aug. 17-18: Opening weekend, An Adventure to the Past, King Henry and Queen Anne arrive at the castle. Meet the new cast of villagers and enjoy the entertainers.
Aug. 24-25: Celtic Fling, with Celtic musicians, Scottish pipe bands and madrigal singers, Men in Kilts contest at 2:30 p.m., “Think You Can Jig” dance contest at 4:30 p.m. on the Rose Stage.
Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and 2: Children’s weekend, children ages 12 and under admitted free with paying adult; Princess, Prince and Pirates costume contest for children; union members receive a buy-one-get-one-free adult ticket with valid identification.
Sept. 7-8: Wine Revelry Weekend, grape stomp competition, free sampling from local wineries.
Sept. 14-15: Pirate Invasion and Military Appreciation Weekend, with Pirate Treasure Hunt for kids, and a Mr. Caribbean Pirate Contest at 4 p.m.; buy-one-get-one-free adult (and free to their children ages 12 and under) with military ID.
Sept. 21-22: Final weekend, Oktoberfest celebration, with stein lugging contest, traditional German music, dancing and foods.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.