Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2011 – Countess Elaine de Francias

French renaissance festival countessAs many artist do, I have my various outlets of creativity (because let’s face it, despite the fact that I get to do something I love, production art is still work!). Costuming and modeling are my primary avenues, with the Tennessee Renaissance Festival having been one of the greatest releases of all.

Tennessee Renaissance Festival by Daniel_MeigsEvery year, Tennessee holds its own Elizabethan faire full of stage acts,  jousting tournaments, live music, human chess, and character performers.  For three years back when I lived in Tennessee, I would audition for cast. I did it once before in 2007, landing the role of a peasant pickpocket. In 2011, I moved up the chain a wee bit to a french countess, sister to the Prince of France. (In 2012, I flitted around as a deer fairy. More on her in the next post!)

French Countess by_Daniel_MeigsOne of the great things about our faire is the immense creativity that goes on behind the scenes; from character development to costume building. All of our costumes are hand-built and custom designed. It would get all my creative juices going to spend months planning, preparing, and designing. It’s heaven for a preproduction gal like me.

Alas, my original design (which was basically a Renaissance version of Belle’s green gown from Beauty and the Beast) did not get approved as another lady in cast had a similar colour scheme (and whose garments were already made). So I yielded to the costume director whose daughter, in turn, let me rent her costume (it helps having a body twin around!). At first I wasn’t sure about the gown I was  given as the colours of baby blue and light gold. They were certainly not colours I would’ve chosen for myself. But after seeing the final result I realised I have a thing or two to learn about colour…So although I did not design this costume, I did design/pick out the accessories, hair, and makeup. Here is the final result of me in 2011 as Countess Elaine de Francias, half-sister to the Duke of Anjou (one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favoured suitors):

ME3It was a challenging character to play as I’ll confess, I’m not the best with verbal improv (physical improv is another story). But I was chosen for the role as I was one of the only people on cast who could do a believable French accent. Well….believable to American ears. I imagine I would embarass myself in front of an actual Frenchman. But the accent worked in my favour as my limits with verbal improv would arise and I could simply explain it away with a “I don’t speak English well”. It went over well and added more believability to the character.

Kirk_Hughes3 IMG_4896(My fellow cast members, who were all playing Englishmen and women were more than happy to get in on the English-French rivalry.)

ME_ScottCraigAll in all it was a very interesting experience, even though the next year, I went back to a more physically-active character. But I enjoyed my time as the Faire’s “Renaissance Disney Princess” that year. (So many little girls would come up to me thinking I was a princess. It made my day to see the big smiles on their faces.)

Tennessee Renaissance Festival noble womanCostume –  Esther Cancasi
Parasol –  Vintage via Ebay
Hair jewels – Claire’s
Earrings – Vintage via Ebay
Basket – Goodwill

Stay tuned for 2012’s TNRF costume – Awani the Deer Faerie!

Photographs: David Merritt, Daniel Miegs, My City Social, Derek Deweese, Kirk Hughes, Scott Craig, Chris Jarvis


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