Verily, a Rochester theater troupe of merry lads and ladies will be making a return engagement to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee.
It will mark the second straight appearance for the Minnesota Sykvault Theatre Company & Words Players Theatre, which last year won best new act at the annual medieval festival for its staged and street performances.
“They just went above and beyond,” said Kathy Kuhlmann, the group’s executive director. “They just brought something fresh to the renaissance festival.”
The festival, which features people dressed in medieval clothing saying things like “Forsooth!” and “Prithee,” will open Aug. 22 and runs every weekend though Oct. 4.
The Minnesota festival uses hundreds of actors to create the sense and feel of those medieval times. And the Rochester troupe had to prove its medieval mettle and acting ability by auditioning for a role. About 8 to 10 Skyvault cast members, made up of high school students and those slightly older, performed at the festival last year.
This year, the group has been invited back and in an expanded role for the festival’s 45th season at Shakopee, Kuhlmann said. The troupe will not only reprise their staged and street performances, but will inhabit and perform in a new themed “Sherwood Forest” area.
Visitors to this forest will be treated to a variety of vignettes and experiences, of music and medieval adventures carried out by merry group of mostly middle school students. The youngest cast member will be 6. As a result of the expanded role, there will be more than 30 Skyvault cast members participating in the festival this time.
“It’s like stumbling on this Robin Hoodish kind of camp,” said Kuhlmann.
To prepare for their roles at the renaissance festival, 22 youths participated in a seven-week boot camp aimed at both increasing their physical endurance and polishing their acting skills. In between sessions of pushups and situps, students learned sonnets, practiced Renaissance-type instruments like the flute and violin, and sought inspiration from watching movies like the 1938 Errol Flynn classic, “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”
“It’s really grueling acting up there,” Kuhlmann said. “Our kids found that out last year. You’re performing 10 hours a day nonstop.”
In fact, the festival has signaled an interest in seeing Skyvault Theatre Company be an “ongoing presence (at their events) for the foreseeable future,” she said.
Daved Driscoll, the troupe’s artistic director, is planning to hold improv classes in Bloomington and Eagan, Minn., to expand Skyvault’s reach and expand its numbers. A third site is also being considered, and people from age 6 to adult can participate in the workshops.
“The goal is to train people so they can audition with us next spring to be part of our Renaissance troupe,” Kuhlmann said. “With our growing role at the festival, we will be looking to expand our troupe up in Minneapolis.”