Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: DeSales grad as queen to make repeat performance at Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

What would it be like as queen for a day? Jessica Eppler, a graduate of DeSales University's theater program in Center Valley, knows all too well. She'll be reprising her 2012 role as Queen Elizabeth I beginning Saturday at the 33rd Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in Rapho Twp., Lancaster Co. The event, running through Oct. 27, is held on the grounds of the Mount Hope Estate & Winery near Manheim.

Having also portrayed the queen in 2007, Eppler is no stranger to donning "the big dress." She joined the Faire cast in 1998, upon graduation from high school, and has spent many seasons since as a member of the Blackfryar, Bacchanalian and Independent casts and directorial staff. Previous Faire roles have included a shepherdess, a wine mistress, and the queen's cousin.

In addition to portraying the most powerful woman in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Eppler serves as the 2013 co-director of the Blackfryar cast, dialect and history and the staff director and writer of the Faire's Children's Shows. Apart from the Faire, she is employed by the Nemours DuPont Hospital for Children.

This year's theme is "a very strong woman show," said Maryland native Mark Sullivan, the Faire's artistic director and improvisational/interaction director. As one who's performed at Faires across the country and at Manheim, Sullivan also has trained and directed the actors and written stage shows. As a member of the SAK street theater company, he performed at Walt Disney World's Epcot and developed and directed shows for Busch Gardens Tampa, the Disney organization, and The Florida Symphony Orchestra, to name a few.

The setting for the Faire is in the year 1588, as the Shire of Mount Hope prepares for Her Grande arrival. While England is enjoying a period of peace, unrest is just outside its borders in Ireland. The capture of Red Hugh O'Donnell, leader of the Irish rebellion, appears to be a victory, but there is a greater force arriving as the Pirate Queen, Grace O'Malley, comes to face Her Majesty and state her case for freedom.

"We're anything but boring," Sullivan said of the Faire, with fresh offerings of women pirate groups and their music, stunt jousts, and a "real high-energy" finale. The Human Chess Match will present a square-off with Her Majesty and the Pirate Queen. Shakespearean plays will be presented in the Faire's own three-story replica of London's Globe Theater. Add to that plenty of kids' activities, handcraft artisans, and unique culinary delicacies from the royal kitchens that include those infamous smoked turkey legs. Each weekend of the Faire will sport a theme ranging from chivalry and romance, to Oktoberfest, and heroes of the realm, where all heroes past and present who have dedicated their lives to help protect and serve others will be recognized.

"It's all geared toward the enjoyment of guests," Sullivan said. "It's not your typical amusement park, but a themed amusement park with truly unique and specialized entertainment, permanent buildings, and unique interactive theater and performance, foods, crafts, and rides and games you won't find anywhere. …We're unpredictable in a really fun way. …We don't push history. It happens to be the framework we're set in."

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Fast forward 40 years, and people are still dancing to the music of KC and the Sunshine Band and hits like "Get Down Tonight," "That's the Way (I Like It)," and "Shake Your Booty." That's the way KC, aka Harry Wayne Casey, wants it when he makes a return headliner appearance at the 30th annual Musikfest on Thurs., Aug. 8, at 7 p.m., on the Sands Steel Stage.

Among the (ticketed) headliners taking the stage at this year's Musikfest, beginning Friday through Aug. 11, are Ke$ha, Styx & Foreigner, OneRepublic, Darius Rucker, Avenged Sevenfold, George Thorogood & the Destroyers, Carly Rae Jepsen, Skillet, Peter Frampton & B.B. King.

Lots of booty was shaking back in August 2006, when "KC's Boogie Blast: The Ultimate Dance Party" summer tour rolled into Bethlehem's Musikfest. This time around, the Grammy Award-winning KC said there's no title to his touring, which primarily takes place weekends. From his home base in Miami, he described his upcoming appearance as "everything familiar," with his 10-piece band, two singers and two dancers.

"We'll do all the hits, and then some," described KC, who's been keeping America partying on its feet under the light of mirror balls since 1973. That's when he developed a unique fusion of R&B and funk, with a hint of a Latin percussion groove. The band's first record, "Blow Your Whistle," made the top 15 on the R&B chart. The second album, "KC & the Sunshine Band," went triple platinum with hits, "Get Down Tonight," "That's the Way (I Like It)," "Boogie Shoes," and "Rock Your Baby." Third album, "Part 3," brought hit singles "I'm Your Boogie Man," "Shake Your Booty," and "Keep It Comin' Love." The single, "Boogie Shoes," was included on the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack.

KC's audience today ranges "from babies to grandmas," he said. His hit songs transitioned beautifully through the years from disco to digital in major motion picture soundtracks, video games, sporting events and TV shows. Even major music acts have covered his music. KC said a new record, "Give It Up Tonight," should be released in the next month and features himself, singer Jencarlos and rapper Pitbull.

Already among the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, KC and the Sunshine Band were honored with a star on the Palm Springs (Fla.) Walk of Stars earlier this month. Among those attending the ceremony, he said, was friend Barry Manilow and music group, The Village People.

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Pack some chairs to sit back and enjoy the music at the 159th Reading Fair at the Reading Fairgrounds in Bern Township, beginning Sunday and running through Aug. 10. The entertainment lineup includes Jeff Krick in a Tribute to Elvis, Flamin' Dick & the Hotrods, Hector Rosado y Su Orchestra, and The Outlaws featuring Crazy Elmer. New this year will be helicopter rides over the Fairgrounds and Blue Marsh area. Also a first will be a firemen's competition involving Berks County fire companies.

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It's the 50th annual Das Awkscht Fescht in Macungie Memorial Park on Route 100 in Macungie, beginning Friday through Sunday, with focus on the Buick. More than 3,000 antique and classic cars featuring the Buick will be on site, as Buick celebrates its 110th anniversary this year. In addition to folk art, crafts and antiques, a juried community art show will be held during the show's run in the park's Memorial Hall. Saturday features indoor and outdoor toy shows in and near Eyer Middle School.

Entertainment includes The Large Flowerheads, Flamin' Dick and the Hot Rods, Inch and the Echos Oldies, School's Out, Steve Brosky and Jimmy Meyer, and Crazy Hearts.

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Ten-time world champions The Cadets of Allentown perform Saturday in the DCI (Drum Corps International) 2013 Eastern Classic opening Friday at J. Birney Crum Stadium, Linden and 20th streets, Allentown. All of DCI's world-class corps will be featured before heading to Indianapolis for the 2013 World Championships.

In addition to The Cadets, Saturday performances will include: Blue Stars of La Crosse, Wis.; Bluecoats of Canton, Ohio; Colts of Dubuque, Iowa; Mandarins of Sacramento, Calif.; Phantom Regiment of Rockford, Ill.; Santa Clara Vanguard of Santa Clara, Calif.; Spirit of Atlanta of Atlanta, Ga.; The Academy of Tempe, Ariz.; and Troopers of Casper, Wyo.

Sunday's slate has Blue Devils of Concord, Calif.; Blue Knights of Denver, Colo.; Boston Crusaders of Boston, Mass.; Bridgemen Alumni of Bayonne, N.J.; Carolina Crown of Fort Mill, S.C.; Cascades of Seattle, Wash.; Crossmen of San Antonio, Texas; Jersey Surf of Camden Co., N.J.; Madison Scouts of Madison, Wis.; Oregon Crusaders of Portland, Ore.; Pacific Crest of Diamond Bar, Calif.; Pioneer of Milwaukee, Wis., and The Cavaliers of Rosemont, Ill.

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