This article about Sherwood Forests Faire’s players originally appeared in the Hill Country News on February 25, 2010

Playing ‘faire’ with Shakespeare

by Kate Goeke, Hill Country News

Former Leander ISD superintendent Tom Glenn spent more than two decades ensuring the district’s students were ready for the future. How surprised he must have been when his own daughter, Courtney Glenn, chose to live in the past.

Courtney’s not living in just any past, though. She’s chosen to go back to the year 1189 as a cast member of Sherwood Forest Faire, a new Renaissance and medieval faire opening Saturday, Feb. 27. She will be performing in William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” along with the “Bard” himself, portrayed by Robert Deike of Austin. True, Shakespeare was not born until 1564, but for the purpose of the faire’s activities, he and his troupe will be transported back in time by a wizard.

Courtney, a 2001 Leander High School graduate, was introduced to the works of Shakespeare by Susan Todd, who taught English at LHS from 1995-2003. Todd pioneered a program at the school called “Shakespeare Through Performance.” Each year, her class would begin with a study of Shakespeare’s plays which would culminate in the spring with a theatrical performance.

Todd is now a professor at the University of Texas. She is also the director of the Weird Sisters Women’s Theater Collective of Austin. (The “Weird Sisters” were three witches in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”) The all-female group performs classical and original plays which explore issues of gender and race equality – as well as the works of Shakespeare.

Courtney reconnected with Todd through the Weird Sisters, and has performed in four of their five productions. She will also be in their next production, “Sycorax,” in June. She has wanted to perform at a Renaissance faire for some time, but until now hasn’t been able to work it into her schedule.

“It’s a big commitment,” Courtney said of balancing her studies at Texas State University with her desire to act. Faire performers practice many weeks before opening day, as well as performing the weekends of the faire.

“It was daunting at first, juggling school and this [faire], but it’s easier now that I’m into the routine,” she said.

Susan Todd had a hand in leading Courtney to the forest, and through more than their Weird Sisters connection. Susan’s brother Eric Todd is one of the co-owners of the faire, with George Appling. They have invested blood, sweat, tears – and $2.5 million – to bring the faire to life. Construction began last year on the 106-acre site, including campgrounds, parking and a 23-acre medieval English village, which brings Sherwood into the category of medium-sized faires.

“I can’t believe he did it,” Susan said of Eric. “I don’t know where he’s found the time and energy to do this.” Much more than just a “rennie,” Eric works full-time for the Brazos County Health Department.

Courtney auditioned for the faire several months ago, not knowing at the time what role she would be given. As it turns out, she will be a busy girl. As part of the Shakespeare show, she will play multiple characters from “The Winter’s Tale,” including Paulina, Camillo, Dion, Clown and Florizel.

Of those characters, only Paulina is female, but playing men is nothing new to Courtney. She has been Falstaff in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and Malvolio in “Twelfth Night,” as well as the nasty Examiner in “The Weird Sisters, Hand in Hand” (an original adaptation of “Macbeth” written by Susan Todd).

In Elizabethan England, all parts were played by male actors and there were laws prohibiting women from acting onstage. Female roles were played by teenage boys or young men. In a reversal of those times, the Weird Sisters’ all-female company portrays both sexes.

“I really prefer to play men in Shakespeare’s plays,” Courtney said.

Sherwood Forest Faire is located 35 miles east of Austin on U.S. 290, between the towns of McDade and Paige. The faire is open Saturdays and Sundays, Feb. 27 to April 4, from 10 a.m. to dusk.

The family-friendly faire is Robin Hood-themed, following the folk hero and his Merry Men throughout a day of adventure. Each day the faire will feature more than 75 performances on nine stages. Jousters will go full-tilt twice a day and betrothed couples can exchange vows at Marian’s Chapel. Artisans and merchants will sell their wares in 136 shops, including a special area just for kids. Food, drinks and games are available.