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Thursday, Sep 21, 2023

Simi Group Revives the Renaissance

For two weekends every November, the Simi Valley Civic Center park transforms into an Elizabethan wonderland as the site of the Nottingham Festival, the region’s only Renaissance faire. Dozens of Renaissance fairs take place every year across the country, but few can match the authenticity of Nottingham, said Jan Glasband, founder of the Actors’ Repertory Theater of Simi, through which the event is held, and artistic director of the festival. “Although our fair is small, we do have a great reputation,” said Glasband. To achieve authenticity, organizers get help from historians with expertise on the period to consult on every component of the event, from costumes to food to the proper dialect of Olde English. The Actors’ Repertory Theater offers access to a full wardrobe of costumes and talent with real acting chops. Tickets this year ranged from $12 prior to the event to $15 at the gate. “The heart of what we do is education through history and the arts,” Glasband said. “Our goal is to have a whole lot of fun while we’re educating people.” The festival revolves around a schedule of on-stage performances. Some, like “Auditions for Shakespeare,” allow the audience to join in the fun. A special set of performances takes place at the Master’s Pavilion, where legendary figures from the period impart their wisdom to the audience. This year’s line-up includes Leonardo di Vinci, Sir Francis Drake and Michelangelo. “We haven’t given over to the trappings of a more commercial operation,” Glasband said. “All of our focus and fun is very traditional.” Nottingham also features dozens of artisans who specialize in crafts with a Renaissance feel, such as Carlsbad chainmaille jewelry-maker Mythica Metalworks and apparel designer Pandora’s Closet, which designs custom dresses and skirts adorned with pinecones, acorns and faux fur. While the fair’s commitment to authenticity and its roster of performers have garnered praise from spectators, Glasband believes its location has weighed on its growth. “We’re trying to really bring a lot of positive focus to this end of Ventura County,” she said. “The hill between Simi Valley and the other valleys is a hard one to circumvent.” Rather than move the event elsewhere, the festival is entrusting its marketing efforts to Sasha Venola, who previously served as public relations coordinator for the Falcon Theater in Burbank. Ideally, media attention and social media promotion will prompt more area residents to participate, Glasband said. She also hopes to get the attention of potential sponsors interested in assisting with production of the nonprofit event. For those who missed the Renaissance this year, the Actors’ Repertory Theater also stages a “Wild West” historical event called Tumbleweed on the weekend of Nov. 18-19. – Helen Floersh

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