August 16, 2018
Arts & Entertainment
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  • RennFest actor Fred Fletcher-Jackson enjoys developing bits, or sketches, and watching them grow. Now in his second year with the festival, Fletcher-Jackson will continue his role as George Boleyn, a member of the Royal Court and brother of Anne Boleyn.
    Photo Provided
    RennFest actor Fred Fletcher-Jackson enjoys developing bits, or sketches, and watching them grow. Now in his second year with the festival, Fletcher-Jackson will continue his role as George Boleyn, a member of the Royal Court and brother of Anne Boleyn.
  • RennFest actor Fred Fletcher-Jackson enjoys developing bits, or sketches, and watching them grow. Now in his second year with the festival, Fletcher-Jackson will continue his role as George Boleyn, a member of the Royal Court and brother of Anne Boleyn.
    Photo Provided
    RennFest actor Fred Fletcher-Jackson enjoys developing bits, or sketches, and watching them grow. Now in his second year with the festival, Fletcher-Jackson will continue his role as George Boleyn, a member of the Royal Court and brother of Anne Boleyn.
  • RennFest actor Fred Fletcher-Jackson enjoys developing bits, or sketches, and watching them grow. Now in his second year with the festival, Fletcher-Jackson will continue his role as George Boleyn, a member of the Royal Court and brother of Anne Boleyn.
    Photo Provided
    RennFest actor Fred Fletcher-Jackson enjoys developing bits, or sketches, and watching them grow. Now in his second year with the festival, Fletcher-Jackson will continue his role as George Boleyn, a member of the Royal Court and brother of Anne Boleyn.
  • RennFest actor Fred Fletcher-Jackson enjoys developing bits, or sketches, and watching them grow. Now in his second year with the festival, Fletcher-Jackson will continue his role as George Boleyn, a member of the Royal Court and brother of Anne Boleyn.
    Photo Provided
    RennFest actor Fred Fletcher-Jackson enjoys developing bits, or sketches, and watching them grow. Now in his second year with the festival, Fletcher-Jackson will continue his role as George Boleyn, a member of the Royal Court and brother of Anne Boleyn.

Severna Park Native Returns As “George Boleyn” In 42nd Annual RennFest

Maya Pottiger
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August 7, 2018

As a kid, Fred Fletcher-Jackson visited Maryland’s famous RennFest, but he never dreamed he would eventually be part of it.

One day, a Facebook post advertised RennFest auditions, and Fletcher-Jackson decided to give it a shot.

“It seemed a little too easy,” the Severna Park native and current resident said. “I had my audition. Two weeks later, they emailed me and were like, ‘We want you to be George Boleyn.’”

Now in his second year with the festival, Fletcher-Jackson will continue his role as George Boleyn, a member of the royal court and brother of Anne Boleyn.

“Now, the work is not so much to figure out who he is, but to figure out what kind of journey he’s made from last year to now, and what his goals are and how they’ve changed, as opposed to starting with a new character from the ground up,” Fletcher-Jackson said.

The Secret Language

Though there are scripted stage shows, the actors at RennFest are largely acting and improvising on the streets as they interact with guests.

“You get used to the language pretty easily,” Fletcher-Jackson said. In fact, he said it’s easier to stay consistent with the language than it is to stop speaking that way at the end of the day.

“We, all day, are trying to think of ways to make a reference to some sort of modern thing without making it too anachronistic,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “For example, whenever we refer to Facebook, it’s always ‘The Book of Faces.’ A lot of stuff like that.”

So how do they stop speaking like a royal during the festival?

“The RennFest cast has their own little saying: ‘The beer is in the pickup truck.’ That’s the sentence that we use to try and get ourselves out of that mindset,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “When you say, ‘The beer is in the pickup truck,’ that cannot possibly be translated in any way, so that’s the thing that we say to be like, ‘OK, I’m done being this character now. I can go back to being me.’”

In addition, when cast members are out on the streets and trying to convey the truth to each other without breaking character, they use the word “forsooth.”

“Everybody in the cast has agreed upon the fact that if you say ‘forsooth,’ then that means the thing I’m about to tell you is actually true in real life,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “If my mom walks up to me at festival and I tell everybody, ‘Forsooth, my lady mother,’ they know I’m saying, ‘That’s my real mother.’”

Staying In Character

The same way that it’s hard to break out of the language, Fletcher-Jackson said it’s hard to break out of character during the day.

“[The key is] knowing your boundaries and finding those for yourself,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “It’s easier than it probably seems. It’s harder to get out of it after doing it for 10 hours a day than it is getting into it.”

During rehearsals, the actors are provided with plenty of research materials on their characters. These materials come in many forms, including TV shows and documentaries.

Despite his preparations, Fletcher-Jackson said he came up short last year when speaking with one of the history buff guests.

“There was actually a time early in the festival last year where I genuinely forgot the name of one of my own sisters,” Fletcher-Jackson said.

Though there are a variety of characters at RennFest, Fletcher-Jackson said he enjoys playing someone who was “actually a real person.”

“There’s a lot of room for play and to have fun with [a totally made-up character], but I like knowing what I’m doing is based on something that actually happened,” Fletcher-Jackson said.

Honing Your Skills

The hardest part of being an actor at RennFest is having confidence in his improvisational skills, Fletcher-Jackson said. However, he does enjoy not being tied to a script. Instead, Fletcher-Jackson enjoys developing bits, or sketches, and watching them grow.

“The scripted stage shows, they’re always great, and they’ll always be there. If nothing else is going right that day, you can always go to that, and that’ll usually go pretty well,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “But it’s fun watching an idea that one or two people have for a short thing to do grow into a full thing.”

At last year’s RennFest, Fletcher-Jackson said there was a bit where, halfway through the day, Thomas Boleyn, his father, would go missing. All day, the Royal Court would ask patrons if they’d seen Thomas. Then, right before the final show of the day, Thomas would show up, and the characters would drop to their knees in front of him, excited that he was alive.

“I would say the most fun is when you walk the middle line between having a script and making stuff up,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “I don’t like working on a script because it feels restricting, but I also don’t like improvising stuff off the top of my head. I like if you come in for a bit knowing what’s going to happen, but you kind of develop your own path to it.”

From an artist’s standpoint, Fletcher-Jackson said he can’t recommend RennFest enough.

“It’s really fun, we’re treated really well,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “I especially recommend it if you’re an artist who is my age or younger who is kind of still struggling or struggling to find their place or struggling to get work that pays.”

What’s Next

This fall, Fletcher-Jackson is starting grad school in Philadelphia. He is going for his Master of Fine Art in devised performance at the University of the Arts.

“I will be traveling home every weekend,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “The day of our first day of classes is actually the day after opening weekend.”

During the summer, Fletcher-Jackson is teaching a summer camp with the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory. He also teaches on a freelance basis with local companies, including Compass Rose Theater in Annapolis, the Drama Learning Center in Howard County and the Chesapeake Shakespeare Center in Baltimore.

The 2018 Festival

This year, RennFest will be held August 25 and 26 and on the following dates in September: 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30; and the following dates in October: 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21. Ticket prices vary, and there are themed weekends throughout the season. For more information, visit www.rennfest.com.


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