STERLING — Pulling into the Renaissance Festival from Farden Road, participants leave 2019 at the gate and enter the realm of Warwickshire, or Warwick, England, 1585.

“When I started it was a few buildings and a few actors and it has grown tremendously,” said Gary Izzo, creative director for the festival.

Mr. Izzo has been with the festival 41 years, this is the 43rd year for the event.

“The particular acting technique has changed over the years,” he said. “We do improvisational environmental interactive theater.”

This method of acting was not done when Mr. Izzo began working with the festival in the 1970s because it’s one that has developed because of the local festival.

“We wanted to develop a theatrical environment, not just a stage, that seems real and makes participants feel like part of the environment,” Mr. Izzo said.

The creative director worked a number of years to perfect this technique, wrote books on the subject, and brought the ideas south to Disney.

“The technique is now used all over the world,” he said. “I come back here every summer, it was my little child, my petri dish if you will, it’s home.”

Not only has the technique branched out across the country, so have the auditions.

“Our professional actors audition and come from all over to participate,” said Mr. Izzo. “I really enjoy developing the characters each year and our training period.”

The creative director also noted the “good feelings” involved with daily performances and interactions.

“It is make believe, to a point. It is a safe family environment and I think that’s why people come back year-after-year,” he said. “We’re certainly not the biggest festival, but it is one of the best, artistically speaking.”

The thoughtfully themed weekends continue in Sterling through the festival’s grand finale August 17 and 18. Event and ticketing information are available online at www.sterlingfestival.com.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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