PA Renaissance Faire - Whose Jest Is It Anyway?

To round out this week of Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire Festivities, I am going to leave you with one of the funniest stage shows my family has seen. Due to scheduling, we were not able to catch their show this season but we are hoping that the Faire schedule will allow us to see them next season. 

"Whose Jest Is It Anyway?" is a Ren Faire take on the popular television show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Much like the TV show, the stage show has different improvisational games the actors play. Some of them involve songs, some of them don't. One of them involves actors sticking their heads in a barrel of water while the others chat amongst themselves. It really is quite hysterical.

Unlike the other acts I have blogged about this week, Whose Jest is made up entirely of a segment of PA Ren Faire cast members called Blackfryars.  The show is one-of-a-kind. You won't find anything like it at any other Renaissance fair or festival. It's a must see! 

PA Renaissance Faire - The Mud Squad

Another one of our favorite acts from the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is The Mud Squad.  Unfortunately, I don't have a ton of pictures of their show. You can see more pictures of them on their Facebook page. 

The Mud Squad is a trio of comedians. The current line-up features Ploppy (who is in the picture above), Snarfy, and Oozie. (A previous version of the line-up featured Skeeter. However, Skeeter is now performing in Orlando so Oozie returned to the PA Ren Faire.) Every Faire day, the three mud-covered goofballs perform three different shows. I'm not sure if the shows are different every year but this year's shows are Mudpit of the Ape, Rumpelstiltskin, and Ploppy's Hot Date. The show we saw this past weekend was Mudpit of the Ape.

As you can see from the picture above, it is difficult to get a good picture of the mudpit when there is an audience. The mudpit is at the bottom of a slight slope, which makes it a little difficult to see what is going on when the actors are actually in the mud. In the background, the little hut is where the actors put on costumes and hide their props. The hut is raised off the ground a bit, making that the best place to see the actors in action. Unfortunately, they spend most of their time in front of the mudpit. You could move down to the front rows of the audience, if you don't mind getting splashed with mud occasionally. 

The three shows are quite funny. In Mudpit of the Ape, Snarfy is telling the story of his summer vacation. He went to a tropical island where he met a beautiful island woman, played by Ploppy. This woman is also the only virgin on the island. Unfortunately, her people are being plagued by a large monkey, played by Oozie. Snarfy fights the monkey and ends up face-down in the mud pit. The monkey kidnaps the island woman, prompting Snarfy to save her. Of course, the day is saved....only after they all end up in the mud. It is a mud show, after all!

If you find yourself with nothing to do a 12, 2, or 4 and you are at the Ren Faire, head on over to the mud pit. If you prefer the risque type of humor, Ploppy also performs an adult-oriented show with Looney Lucy. People with kids should stick with The Mud Squad instead. It is (slightly) dirty fun for the whole family!

PA Renaissance Faire - Circus Stella

Circus Stella is one of those acts that has managed to fly under our Renaissance Faire radar. While we were told that we had to check them out, their shows were always scheduled against other shows we wanted to see. This past weekend, we decided to skip one of Fool Hearty's shows in order to catch Circus Stella. I am so glad we did.

Circus Stella is another husband and wife act. Dextre Tripp handles the juggling, ladder balancing, and rope walking portions of the show. Jayna Lee, on the other hand, does the prettier parts. She does aerial stunts with both the trapeze and aerial silks. On top of that, their rescue dogs are part of the show too! (They actually named their show after one of the dogs, Stella.) 

In Dextre's parts of the show, he does a lot of crowd-work. In the show we watched, he had two children from the audience help him. One climbed up a ladder Dextre was balancing in order to bring him a dropped hat. The other, as you can see in the picture, sat on his shoulders while he rode a unicycle across the stage. Those kids were super brave. I don't know that I would have the guts to do either of those. 

We did get to see one of the best parts of Dextre's on-stage presence. He originally brought a different girl onto the stage for the unicycle bit. However, once she got on his shoulders, she freaked out a little. Instead of abandoning the bit, he simply put Girl #1 down, thanked her, and chose a different girl. I appreciated Dextre's concern for the girl and his willingness to continue the show. 

First off, I'd like to say that I wish I had better pictures of Jayna's act. My husband's camera didn't want to give her any love that day. Jayna started out on a trapeze, which was lovely, but my favorite part was the aerial silk. She looked so beautiful and so elegant with them. Even if you don't see them for the other parts (which you should), definitely check them out for Jayna's silk routine. Just gorgeous.

Then there are the dogs. The dog part of the show was very funny. I think we saw three dogs on Saturday. I'm not positive. I was too busy having a good time to count them. Anyway, some of the dogs did their own "tightrope walking" over some wooden boards. In this picture, you can see Stella doing her trick with Adrian. First Stella jumps over Adrian, then she crawls underneath. It is quite funny to see in person. 

When we were at the Faire on Saturday, the weather was not completely cooperative. There were wind gusts and some spitting rain throughout the day. Circus Stella changed their act around a little bit to accommodate the weather so some things were a little off but, honestly, I wouldn't have noticed if they hadn't said something about it during the show. If you get a chance to see them perform, check them out. You will not regret it. I even purchased a DVD so I can watch them in the off-season!

PA Renaissance Faire - Fool Hearty

As I have said a number of times, my family spends a lot of time at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. While we didn't attend as frequently this year as we have in the past, we did see some new shows and meet some new friends. Every day this week, I will be featuring some of our favorite acts from the PA Ren Faire. The Faire ends next weekend but it is possible that you could see some of these acts are other Renaissance fairs or festivals. 

First up, Fool Hearty

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Fool Hearty is a husband and wife duo. As Marquise and Ima Nutte, they perform three different shows every day. There is a magic show, Fool School, and an untrained dog show. In addition, Marquise leads many of the parades that take place during the day. When they are not on stage performing, they are wandering around the Shire making everyone around them smile.

The Fool Hearty magic show is best for smaller children. Marquise handles most of the magic tricks while Ima Nutte plays his beautiful assistant. During the show, they bring two children (usually one boy and one girl) on stage as helpers. The boy helps during the rope trick and the girl helps during the paper trick. Even though I have seen their magic show dozens of times, I still can't figure out how they do it. 

Fool School is where the families get to make fun of Daddy. Ima picks a man out of the audience for them to turn into a fool. The audience member gets a new costume and a new name. Then there is some juggling and some pictures and a graduation ceremony. Trust me when I say that this is a funny show, especially when the new fool jokes back with Marquise and Ima. 

Fool Hearty's big show of the day is the Untrained Dog Show. The couple owns four dogs total but only two of the border collies are currently in the act. Originally, the main star was Blockhead, who definitely knew how to work the crows. However, he has recently retired. In his place, both Polka Dot and Wing Nutte have stepped up their games. This is, most definitely, my favorite show at the Ren Faire. I highly recommend that you check it out, if you can. 

No matter how often you see a Fool Hearty show, you always walk away with a smile on your face. Not only are Marquise and Ima very funny people, they are also very approachable and friendly. If you see them walking around, please say hello or give them a hug. They love you as much as you love them. 

Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

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My family went to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire on Sunday. We have been going to the Faire for the past couple of years but I don't think we usually go in August. I believe most of our visits are in September and October. However, change is afoot at Mount Hope and not all of it is good.

The main reason we went to the Faire this particular weekend is that it was Time Travelers weekend. That is when all of the fun Doctor Who and steampunk costumes come out in full force. This year there was a full-sized TARDIS at the Shire. (My husband took a picture.) It is definitely one of the more interesting weekends to people-watch.

Actually, this is one of the changes this year. Generally, Time Travelers weekend is later in the season. Usually the weekend or two after Children's Weekend, which has traditionally fallen on Labor Day weekend. This year Labor Day weekend is held for Heroes of the Realm, where they honor active military, police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and veterans. Children's Weekend will be the weekend after Labor Day. It isn't a huge change but it did put us in the Shire a bit earlier this year. Luckily, the heat didn't kill us.

On the disappointing side of things, the schedule (or Writ, as they call it) was a little disappointing. Our favorite Faire act, Fool Hearty, was there and they were awesome, as always. However, a couple of the other acts we enjoy aren't on the performance list for this season. We know that the entertainers change every year so we are OK with that. But then a couple of the other shows we like to watch were inconveniently timed against the Fool Hearty shows. (For example, the Who's Jest show that my daughter enjoys was running at the exact same time as Fool Hearty's Untrained Dog Show.) We will be back at the Faire later in the season so, hopefully, we'll be able to catch some of the other shows...even if it means having to miss our absolute favorites.

Another big change at the Faire is the royalty. For the past 33 years, the Faire centered around Queen Elizabeth I. This year the focus is on King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon. We don't usually go to many of the storyline shows, mostly because they are packed with people, but we definitely saw Henry walking around much more often than Elizabeth did. I can't say that the change had a large impact on our enjoyment of the Faire but I do have to say that it was nice to mix it up a bit.

I am very much looking forward to the rest of the season. It is quite likely that we won't return until the Halloween weekends, which are our favorite, but we will definitely be back.

Review: Crest Chocolate Toothpaste

My daughter chose to purchase Crest's Mint Chocolate toothpaste when her regular fruit-flavored toothpaste ran out. We were skeptical about a chocolate toothpaste but we gave it a try. chocolatetoothpaste

Be Adventurous! The toothpaste itself is tinted green and contains tiny brown flecks. Considering the toothpaste ended up tasting like mint chocolate chip ice cream, I am assuming those brown flecks are the chocolate part. I was really quite surprised at how tasty the toothpaste was. Admittedly, it was strange brushing with mint chocolate chip flavored paste as opposed to peppermint or even cinnamon. However, once you get over the weirdness, it is rather awesome.

I'm not sure why society has decided that toothpaste must be minty (even the cinnamon flavors can be difficult to find sometimes) but this was a very welcome change. Children's toothpastes tend to be fruit or bubblegum flavored. There's no reason that adults can't have the same indulgence in their hygiene routine. After all, there is some mintiness there. It's just swirled with chocolate goodness. I'm looking forward to trying the other two flavors in the line - Lime Spearmint and Vanilla Mint. I can only hope those are as good as the mint chocolate one.

Talkin' Bout GETT

On Saturday, my daughter and I attended Girls Exploring Tomorrow's Technology, otherwise known as GETT. As you all know, both my husband and I are rather geeky people. Needless to say, the conference was not really aimed at us. But there were some interesting things going on. The girls and the parents were separated all day. While the parents sat in lectures, the girls were broken into groups to do breakout sessions that tackled different areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers. The day started off with a helicopter landing by Stacy Sheard from Sikorsky Global Helicopters. Then the girls went off to the auditorium to begin their day and the parents went to the cafeteria to begin ours.

My daughter (and her friend) were in the eBay Enterprise group. (Every group had a different sponsor companies as their group names.) They got to do four out of the twenty available breakout sessions. Here are the ones they did:

Aviation and Aeronautics - Participants learn about the various applications and capabilities of helicopters. This hands-on experience includes sitting in the pilot's seat and exploring the aircraft. For the Love of Roller Coasters! - Participants learn the basic principles of roller coaster engineering and design and then create their own! How many loops, drops, and banks can be made? Inside the Box/Hardware Rocks! - Participants will learn what makes a computer "tick" by taking one apart; they will also discuss a variety of IT career path options. Say Cheese! - Participants will gain an understanding of dairy farming as well as how milk forms into a finished product via a tasting activity.

Only two of these were on their list of the activities they wanted to do. (Say Cheese! and For the Love of Roller Coasters) While they had fun, they found Say Cheese! to be disappointing. The group made butter via the mason-jar-shaking method. I'm not quite sure how that fits into a STEM category so it was just weird overall. The girls were also disappointed in the Hardware Rocks! session because the people who assembled the computer before them, didn't put it back together correctly. As a result, there were extra pieces all over the desk when they came in and they didn't know where the pieces went. However, they did highly enjoy For the Love of Roller Coasters! (They said they would have given up Say Cheese! for a second round in the coaster session.) The Aviation and Aeronautics session was given a firm 'meh.' Though I think that was because the other girls in the group wouldn't make room for everyone to see into the copter.

As for the parents side, I found it rather boring. As I said, the conference wasn't aimed at my family. It was probably very informative for parents who aren't as "techie" as we are. The one panel I did find interesting was the one about the Chester County library system. Apparently, they have a large number of online programs they run for free if you have a Chester County library card. One of their programs is called Mango and it is free foreign language classes. It looks super cool and I can't wait to get a library card from their library system to check it out. (I am in a different county. While I do have a library card, it is not for their library system.)

Overall, I do recommend people send their girls (grades 6 - 12) to the free conference. There are a lot of things they can learn from the hands-on experience and talking to women that are actually doing these things for a living. However, if you are a techie parent, feel free to skip the lectures. They will only be preaching to the choir.

Girls Exploring Tomorrow's Technology

As most of you probably know, technology-related jobs are still rather male-centric. Girls Exploring Tomorrow's Technology (or GETT) is a one-day event aimed at girls in grades 6 - 12 where they can meet successful women who have technology-related jobs. This year there will be information sessions about biomedical research, robotics, environmental conservation, and much more. There will also be sessions just for the parents. The 2014 event takes place at the Phoenixville Area Middle School on Saturday, March 15. I will be there with my daughter, who is very interested in technology. If you have a daughter in that age group and you live in the Phoenixville area, come join us. It looks like it will be tons of fun for everyone!

They're Bouncy!

Last night, my daughter's Girl Scout troop went to Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline park. I've never been there before so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. It turns out that it is a pretty neat place! After paying and going through the obligatory safety speech, the kids were free to go wherever they wanted in the park. There are a number of different areas that have different "specialties." There were three dodgeball arenas, a large foam pit you can launch into, a basketball area for supreme dunking, an area for the smaller kids to jump around, and a large area for the bigger kids to jump to their hearts delight. Our kids didn't participate in the dodgeball but they did hit up the basketball area, the foam pit, and the jumping area.

The basketball area has three hoops set up at three different heights. It was fun to see the kids try to dunk on the tallest hoop. A few of them actually made it! The foam pit was tons of fun but it was a little difficult to pull yourself out. And the jumping area tired them out quickly. I think they only lasted about 15 minutes in that area before complaining about being tired. We told them to get back in there. :)

I'm not sure if the prices are the same at every Sky Zone. At the one in Oaks, PA, a 90-minute package costs $18 and you have to buy Sky Socks for $1. If you happen to be there when the park is crowded, you end up spending a lot of time waiting in line to use the equipment. We went at 5:30 on a Thursday night and it was fairly empty. There were a few birthday parties there but otherwise it was quiet. However, a bus full of kids pulled in around 6:30, which filled the place up a lot. Take that into consideration if you decide to go. A weeknight will probably be a better value than anytime on the weekend. With that said, the kids did have tons of fun. The trip was definitely worth it.

AMOK!

As I have said before, I am a fan of Supernatural. One of my favorite characters is Castiel, played by Misha Collins. Well, he also runs a charity called Random Acts that promotes random acts of kindness in the world community. This Saturday, March 1, is their Annual Melee of Kindness (aka AMOK) event. Basically, you spend one day doing acts of kindness. It could be something as simple as handing out handwritten cards with nice thoughts on them or volunteering at the local animal shelter to walk dogs or making care packages for the homeless. The things you can do are endless!

Unfortunately, my schedule is pretty tightly booked this Saturday. However, I am still going to try to get some random acts in. I'm not sure exactly what I am going to do but I'm leaning towards giving out cards or donating some much needed items to the local animal shelter.

What are you going to do?