ELIZABETH I OF England grew up just like any other little girl: Her mother, Anne Boleyn, was the child of a diplomat who grew up to be engaged to the son of an earl, while Anne’s sister became the king’s mistress. Elizabeth’s father was said king, who, while sleeping with her aunt, courted her mother for seven years while married to yet another woman. He then created a whole new religion just so he could divorce his wife and marry Elizabeth’s mother (less than three years later, he charged her with treason and had her beheaded, but that’s another story). From this fairy-tale union, Elizabeth went on to claim the throne and rule England for 44 years, during which time the country became stable, forged a unified sense of national identity and produced a little-known writer named Shakespeare.
Margaret Rivera might have had a slightly less royal upbringing: Her mother was a junior high science teacher, and her father was a senior master sergeant in the Air Force who retired in the fair hamlet of Jacksonville. Nevertheless, this first-grade teacher with the Pulaski County Special School District will be trading her dry-erase marker for a scepter when she ascends the throne to become Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth I and rule over the very first Hot Springs Renaissance Faire, Nov. 2 and 3 at the Garland County Fairgrounds.
So how, exactly, does one become a queen?
Why, a queen is born to be queen. Or we marry a king. Either one works well. Actually, to play a queen at a Renaissance faire, all you have to do is audition or apply for the part. Most faires have a casting call for auditions.
What other characters have you played in faires?
I’ve played Marie de Guise, the future queen of Scotland and mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. I’ve played Nathasha, Queen of the Gypsies and Fortune Teller Extraordinaire. And I also played a fairy once or twice. Now that I think about it, that character was queen of the fairies. So I guess all my characters have been queens! I started out 20 years ago as a merchant selling costumes and jewelry. Over the years, I just slowly started playing characters. It wasn’t a hard transition, as I always played a character in my booth.
What was one of your best Renaissance-faire experiences?
The best experience was when an elderly man wanted to complete the queen’s quest and be knighted. Generally, the queen’s quest is only for children. But this gentleman really wanted to do it. So I told him to go on and do it. He was so proud of himself at the completion of it. He was literally shaking as I proceeded to knight him as a member of her majesty’s court. To bring that level of happiness to someone is the best feeling you could ever have. To this day, I can still see the smile on his face.
So tell me a little about the Hot Springs Renaissance Faire.
HSRF was started by Travis Gates. He has been a patron of Renaissance faires for years and was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). It was his dream to start the faire here in Hot Springs. He applied and received a 501(c)(3) status for the faire with a focus on literacy and imagination. With literacy, the faire has worked with the Garland County Library’s summer reading program. We’ll also have fairy-tale story time twice each day of the faire. And of course, imagination comes in with taking patrons back in time to the year 1570 in the small village of Cudworth of England. We even have an area where patrons can learn a skill from the time period.
What are you doing to prepare for it?
Hours upon hours have been spent building stages and backdrop sets. Many of our cast members have been doing double duty of not only learning their characters but also building and painting. The cast has also spent many hours for the past several months attending academies to develop their characters and learn improv. Cast members are also required to provide their own costuming—or garb, as we call it—so many of us have spent hours sewing. And of course, there is the advertising. The cast has attended several events around Hot Springs to promote the faire. We have become a big faire-mily, as we call it.
Why should people come to the HSRF?
The best reason to come out is to enjoy the merriment. There will be six stages for entertainment. We have a joust, a fire show and, of course, our cast to interact with. There will be queens, nobility, townspeople, gypsies, pirates and the fae. Our fae is made up of a variety of magical creatures—fairies, mermaids, wizards and even a minotaur. And let’s not forget the shopping. Artisans from around the country will be there with their handmade goods to tempt you. And food! We have a wide variety of food. No Renaissance faire would be complete without turkey legs.