Archive for Wednesday, August 27, 2003

On with the fair!

August 27, 2003

For Ron Dolsen, it's not about the money.

Rather, his character role in the Kansas City Renaissance Festival is a priceless experience.

"It's changed my life," said the 41-year-old Dolsen who lives in Tonganoxie. "The people that I'm meeting and I'm developing all sorts of new skills. And, in addition to learning more about acting, I'm learning to do stage fights and I'm learning to sing."

Dolsen auditioned in early April, never dreaming he'd win a major part.

"You go in and you do your auditions and you hope that they cast you," Dolsen said.

And as it turned out, Dolsen discovered he had a hidden talent -- acting.

Dolsen will play Lord Avery Rochester in the 27th annual festival, which kicks off Saturday.

Lord Avery Rochester is a member of the court of King Richard and Prince Erick, whom Dolsen described as equivalent to Cinderella's "Prince Charming."

This year's Renaissance Festival is centered on the year 1590.

"Originally, it was going to be 1563," Dolsen said. "But the ages of some of the characters didn't quite jive with the fake history."

Twist of the tongue

And Dolsen, who has attended the Renaissance Festival for years, has finally learned to speak like the actors.

"As a patron, I never attempted to speak in dialect," Dolsen said. "To me, it was more work than it was worth. I didn't want to sound stupid compared to the professionals."

As time goes on with his preparation for this year's festival, Dolsen said he's becoming more comfortable speaking in dialect.

"When you're done with rehearsal, there is a tendency to speak in dialect, with a lilt in your voice," Dolsen said. "But I don't wake up at night speaking in Elizabethan English. By the end of the festival I may, but not now."

Center stage

This year the Renaissance Festival has about 25 actors who are considered scenario characters. These actors are part of the story on which the fair is centered. In addition, there are another 15 or so royal court characters that play significant roles. And, there are about 150 street characters.

The actors have to provide their own costumes, following guidelines set according to the historical year the festival recreates.

Long before the festival begins, actors gain experience through lessons, as well as promotional appearances.

Dolsen began his rehearsals in April. This consisted of regular rehearsals several times a week, court rehearsals on Tuesdays, apprentice rehearsals on Wednesdays and scenario rehearsals on weekends. And, actors participate in acting classes.

Never too late

Those who attend this year's Renaissance Festival will be able to have their say in deciding who's the winner in the Mr. Renaissance Romance contest.

The competition is open to actors as well as to patrons, Dolsen said.

"Each day there's going to be a winner and at the end of the festival there will be an overall winner chosen," Dolsen said. "Whoever is the overall winner will go on to a national competition the following week at Crown Center."

And is Lord Avery Rochester planning to participate in the Mr. Romance contest?

Hearty laughter follows the question and Dolsen replied: "Yes, it's in my contract."

Dolsen, who works at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., said if he had known he could act, he would have become involved in the Renaissance Festival years ago.

"I'm wishing I would have done it earlier, because I'm having a whole lot of fun, and it turns out I'm pretty good at it," Dolsen said.

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