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A Faire to Remember

Learn of the tale of Mary Poplin, seamstress to the Queen

Mary Poplin
Mary Poplin
© Serendipity Studios

Here espy Mary Poplin, the winsome seamstress of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Well known to Her Majesty, the Queen, and to the nobility in Greenwich Palace for her fine thread and needle work, Seamstress Poplin is a giddy lass.
She travels about the realm on weekends, entertaining the little ones as part of the Merry Music Makers, instructing the local gentry in the fine art of Peasant Dance, and the lady can be found cheering the valiant knights participating in the Ultimate Joust.

Seamstress Poplin is called upon to deliver messages between members of the court, and her giddiness often causes a mix-up of words; she has so far had the good fortune to remain clear of the stocks as a result of these merry mishaps!

The Merry Music Makers
Merry Music Makers
Photograph by Tabitha L. Borges

But now know that Seamstress Poplin is, forsooth, called by another name.
During the working days of the week, she is Sara Palmer ’10, honors student at Messiah College, and a senior theatre major with acting and technical theatre and design emphases. Ms. Palmer explains how leading this double life has provided a number of opportunities for her to develop both her acting and design skills.

How did you become involved with the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire?

I became involved with the Faire when I attended with friends during high school and my first two years here. When I found out about the internships that they offered, I thought that would be a good opportunity to go along with what I was learning at Messiah. My internship led to being on cast that first year and being encouraged to audition for this season [for the role of Mary Poplin]. I started off last summer as an intern in the costume shop. I was also on the acting cast for the first half of the season.

What types of preparations/rehearsals were required prior to the Faire opening?

We began rehearsals in April, rehearsing twice a week, Wednesday evenings, and all day Saturdays, until we opened in early August. Our rehearsals consisted of character development, improvisation, interaction training, and rehearsals for stage shows. I also made my own costume.

How did you have the opportunity to design a raincoat for the reigning Queen?

The Queen's rain gown
The Queen’s Rain Gown
©2009 Michael Eraña
Serendipity Studios

Because of that internship and the work that I did over the summer, I was given the opportunity to make the rain gown. It is actually more than just a coat. It is a full Elizabethan gown. I did all of the research, design work, construction, and jeweling for my Senior Honors Project.

What is your involvement in the theatrical productions here at Messiah?

I’ve been involved with at least a show or two each semester, whether in the technical aspects or acting. Right now, I’m playing the role of Emilia in [Shakespeare’s] The Comedy of Errors and costume designing for The Bald Soprano.

To Learn More:
Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire
Messiah Theatre
Honors Program