It’s good to be the Queen: A conversation with Bristol Renaissance Faire’s Queen Elizabeth
Summer weekends in Wisconsin mean different things to different people. Some people carefully maintain their lawns. Some head north to cabins, lakes, and other hazy destinations. And some head south to jousts, feasts, and turkey leg treats. This summer, the Bristol Renaissance Faire enters its 25th year of amusing carloads of children, cosplayers, and history buffs. Before things kick off July 7 (the faire runs every Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day weekend) The A.V. Club was granted an audience with the current Queen Elizabeth, Jennifer Higgins, to discuss her process of transforming into the Queen every weekend for the rest of the summer.
The A.V. Club: Describe your first trip to the Ren Faire.
Queen Elizabeth: I hadn’t ever been to a ren faire until I started working at one. My first trip to the site was for my audition. I was able to see the empty village just beyond the office. It was like getting my first look at a playground as a kid.
AVC: When did you know you were hooked?
QE: I was hooked at the first moment I shared with a patron. We spent weeks learning the time period, discovering our characters, and practicing bits to share. There’s something magically addicting when a person says “yes” and embraces your make-believe.
AVC: What’s new this year?
QE: The new theme for this year is “25th Anniversary,” so we’re celebrating the last 25 years of fun, and inviting everyone to join us for 25 more.
AVC: What’s your favorite part of the faire?
QE: My favorite part of the day, as Queen, is the knighting ceremony in Kid’s Kingdom. Kids are at the peak of imagination—it’s still fresh and not bogged down by the daily grind. Those kids share that depth of imagination with me, as they accept the duty of being Knights and Ladies. They are so serious about it. It’s the time when I feel most like a Queen, I guess.
AVC: What’s the most unique costume you’ve seen?
QE: Over the years I’ve seen some crazy stuff. People really put a lot of work into their outfits. Back when Gen-Con was in town, we’d get really well done Klingons. My latest favorite is from this past season. We had a homemade robot made from cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, and silver dryer hose. It’s the first one of those I’ve ever seen, and he was having so much fun.
AVC: What are your plans during your reign?
QE: My plans are to not get defeated by the Spanish Armada before the party is over. I want to meet the people and let them know I am here for them. I am embracing a time of setting aside everyday worries, and inviting everyone to do the same.
AVC: What can you tell us about the rehearsal process?
QE: For me, the process started last winter, with a lot of research. Now that I’m on-site with the rest of the cast, I’m getting to know other performers, their roles, and the rules of interaction. I’m also getting a chance to try on my character, taking everything I know and experimenting with things like “What was her laugh like? What kind of profanity would she use?” To present the proper picture of my character to the audience, I needed to learn that I delegate even the simplest of tasks. I’m so used to being a solo street character. It has taken some practice to be constantly surrounded by characters whose duty it is to take care of my character.
AVC: What’s the most interesting thing about Elizabeth you’ve learned?
QE: The most amazing thing is that she ever got to the throne in the first place. When she was a child, she was declared a bastard as her father made his way through the rest of his wives. Her sister locked her up in the tower of London with an order of execution at the ready. There were plots and assumed treason—all things that could have cost her her head had she not been smart enough to play the dangerous game of politics.