April 6, 2013

Boston family revels in snowbird life as members of Renaissance fair troupe

For Chris Schultz and Jasmine Ready, the past is the present — and probably the future, too.

For Chris Schultz and Jasmine Ready, the past is the present — and probably the future, too.

The couple, who perform this weekend and next at the Florida Renaissance Fair at Cauley Square Historic Village, have taken an affection for ye olden times to a new level:

They met at a historical festival (in a glass-blowing booth, where she was working at the time).

He staged a surprise proposal, and she said yes, at a festival (on stage, in front of a lively audience).

They got married at a festival (“We had a full-on musical opening number,” Ready recalls).

And now, their two children, ages 3 years and 6 months, wear period costumes and play historic characters, carrying on what has become the family business.

“Theatricality,” Ready says, “is a part of our lives.”

The couple, who live in Boston most of the year, have been involved with historical festivals for 10 years and have been coming to South Florida to work during the winter months for the past five years. Both played roles at the Renaissance festival at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach in February and March, which is run by the same company as the Miami-Dade event, Bobby Rodriguez Productions.

Costume work comes naturally to Schultz, 38: Back home in Boston, he runs Cambridge Historical Tours, which takes tourists around Harvard and environs. Before that, he led tours of the Freedom Trail. He joined Bobby Rodriguez Productions when an acting job came open.

“They needed someone to cover for the king,” he says. “I fell in love with the festival and the people. The next year, Jasmine came, too.”

But there’s a reason the head that wears the crown lies uneasily. Just because you’re royal one day doesn’t mean you reign forever. Schultz played a pirate this year in Deerfield Beach. In Miami, he’s a Renaissance era janitor — one can only imagine how many times he hears “You missed a spot!” each day — and serves patrons at a tea party for the queen, played by Ready.

“My job is to literally wait tables,” Schultz says, “and also stage manage the whole program, in full baroque costume.” But don’t feel too bad for him; he says the traditional clothing is “surprisingly cool.”

As Her Royal Highness, Ready, 41, faces a different set of demands.

“My job is to make everyone happy,” she jokes. “I’m constantly shifting gears. Children will approach and ask, ‘Are you a real queen?’ Older kids will ask, ‘Where’s the king?’ Some adults will ask, ‘Is that crown heavy?’ and some will play it up and say, ‘Your majesty!’ They can play along with you in the role, but we chat as adults, too, saying, ‘We’re from Boston; where are you from?’ We just try to keep the magic for the younger children.”

Still, abdicating the throne may be more fun than it seems, Ready says.

“I usually play courtly ladies. But what I hear from other women who play both sorts of roles is that they have more fun as the lowly characters. You can be more risqué and more goofy as the ragpicker.”

Schultz and Ready aren’t merely performers. They’re involved in the fair setup, putting up stages, building soda booths and the like. Bobby Rodriguez, who has been running the festivals for 22 years, appreciates their dedication.

“They’re super team players aside from being extremely talented,” he says. “They don’t just do their job and go home. They’re always concerned with the big picture and what is it they can do to help out in any way. It’s a joy to work with people like this.”

The family camps off-site during the Miami-Dade event. Once it opens they work long days on the weekends and get five days off in the middle of the week, a precious bonus.

“I can take the family to Zoo Miami or the Seaquarium or Coral Castle, or we can go to the beach,” Schultz says. “It’s the middle of winter! We can go to the beach in the middle of the week! And we’re exposed to things going on in Miami. These past four years I’ve developed an appreciation for guava that I never thought I would.”

Having the kids be part of the experience is the biggest bonus, both actors say. Baby Catherine merely dresses up — as Catherine of Aragon — but 3-year-old Nathanael, who plays Charles V, loves to perform, Ready says. At the end of each day, the queen gives a toast, and Nathanael goes up on stage with her.

“I did the joke, ‘Where does the king keep his armies?’ Nathaniel took the mike and said, ‘Up his sleevies!’ ” Ready says, laughing. “He had no fear, no qualms, no problem taking that mike. He wants to make his voice louder. He says, ‘Can I go up on stage now, Mommy?’”

His parents have a couple of years to decide what to do about school — homeschooling, full- or part-time, is an option, Schultz says — but they have no plans to leave the Renaissance fair lifestyle.

“We love having them with us at work,” Ready says of her kids. “We get to teach them through example. You have to have passion about what you’re doing. I love the pageantry and the language. Chris and I will be watching a miniseries where there’s exquisite language, and we’ll pause the video and write down what we’ve heard. It’s so rich, and the verbiage is beautiful. … To be able to take that back to the people coming through the gate, I love being able to do that. … And I like being able to do it as a family.”

“I want to keep doing it as long as it’s something we both enjoy,” Schultz says. “And we get to be snowbirds!”

Related content


Entertainment Videos