The Best at Ren Fest

Student shares experiences working at Renaissance Festival

Sofia Hughes and Emily Fortin

As the fall season began, students around BV made plans to return to a favorite local event. The Kansas City Renaissance Festival, a seven-week long fair themed around the Renaissance era, made its annual return in early September. For senior Ashton Barlow, the festival is more than a fun weekend plan — it’s his job.  

“I am the head drummer for the fairy troupe at the Renaissance Festival,” Barlow said. “I’m also the understudy for Puck in a ‘Midsummer Night’s Scheme’, an improv show.”

Barlow is already involved in theater at school, but he had to learn to play an instrument for the fair.

“I had no drumming experience,” he said. “You’ll see me at school drumming on my lap or chest all the time. I’m going over the beats every single second.”

In “A Midsummer Night’s Scheme”, Barlow plays Puck, a mischievous fairy, accompanied by the fairies Cobweb, Pea Blossom, and Mustardseed.

“‘A Midsummer Night’s Scheme’ is kind of like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ — it’s not the show, it’s a little tricksy improv game,” he said. “[We] interact with the audience.”

Each cast member of the festival’s fairy troupe is assigned to a specific character themed around a brightly-colored gemstone. Barlow is no different.

“I play Howlite,” Barlow said. “It’s a stone that’s black and white, so I wear a lot of black and white fairy clothing. Then I also play Puck.”

Before an actor makes it into the fairy troupe, they have to try out. Though auditioning to work at such a big event sounds intimidating, Barlow was able to relax and show off his talents as a performer.

“The audition process was very chill,” he said. “They {started us] off with yoga. Then we played a few improv games, lyrical and whatnot, and learned a few dances.”

After a successful showing, Barlow was offered a role. He is one of the youngest there.

“There’s only three people who are under 18 there, and [they’re] all people from [BV],” he said. “Me, [senior] Eliot O’Bryan, and [senior] Christina Stone.”

Performing at the Festival every weekend isn’t Barlow’s only job. He keeps busy by spending his time working elsewhere. 

“I work three jobs right now — I know it sounds like a lot,” he said. “I [also] work at Price Chopper [and] Jersey Boyz.”

Barlow doesn’t mind his work at the festival. He enjoys the ability to interact with guests. 

“It’s not all work — we play a lot. Even when we’re working, we play,” he said. “I’ll walk up to a kid and I’ll be like, ‘May I have your name?’ and then the kid will give me their name, and I’ll be like, ‘Thank you. Farewell!’ and then I’ll run away because fairies steal names.”

Barlow’s favorite aspect of working during the festival is the guests.

“In our fairy forest, we get a lot of interesting people,” he said. “I’ve had hour-long conversations with them about things from politics to the deepest, darkest religion things.”

Having the opportunity to create lasting memories for others pushes Barlow to keep performing. He hopes to have an impact on those he performs for.

“Sometimes you can see [a] kid doesn’t have a good family life,” Barlow said. “We try to make that kid’s day.”

Though the 2021 Renaissance season has come to an end, Barlow is thankful that he worked it this year.

“Being able to act all day is fun in and of itself,” he said. “But in addition to that, you get to meet so many people and experience all kinds of new things.”