Inger Myers and her 16-year-old daughter, Samantha, carpool together to spend their weekends at work, and they couldn’t be happier.
Clad in colorful costumes, the Shawnee residents take on the roles of characters from hundreds of years ago at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. They know their set pieces by heart, but they also have to be improv actors as they mingle and chat with crowds.
Inger is a Romany dancer in the Heart’s Fire troupe, and Samantha plays Rose Everbrook, the eldest daughter of the Lord Mayor of Canterbury. It’s the first time either of them have performed at the festival.
“It’s been so much fun for both of us and being together makes it all the more special,” Inger said. “Samantha and I have always had a good relationship but being together in this has definitely brought us even closer.”
Inger’s troupe performs four times a day. “We are mature women who still have their shape,” she said.
When she’s not dancing, Inger is interacting with Festival patrons, sometimes teaching them Romany dance steps. Improv is a big part of cast members’ interaction with the crowd.
“It’s our job to make sure people who come to the Festival feel good about themselves. We want to show them they’re not too old to dance,” said Inger, whose dance background goes back to her school days.
Samantha, a junior at Mill Valley high school, definitely wasn’t too old when she started dancing. She stepped into her first lesson when she was just 3 years old and continued them into her early teens. She quit when she entered high school and took on more activities, including marching band — another field where she follows Inger’s footsteps.
“My mother was in the marching band when she was in high school in Denver,” she said. “We both play the clarinet.”
As Rose, Samantha enjoys singing and dancing with the royal court, acting out scenes and staying in her role while she interacts with festival patrons. She doesn’t perform directly with Inger, but she says it’s still important to be a part of the same world of characters as her mother.
“We’re in different areas of the grounds so we meet different people,” Samantha said. “When we get home, if we’re not too tired, we sit around and talk about what went on during the day and the people we met. It’s fun. We laugh a lot.”
Besides performing on weekends, Inger is a part-time assistant to the festival’s entertainment director, Jim Stamberger. She works in the office four or five mornings a week. On weekends her days start at 6:15 a.m.
“I help check in the performers and get everything ready to go. At 10 a.m. when the people start arriving I become Romany dancer Djinnia Boleyn and dance the day away with the other fun characters in the cast,” Inger said.
Inger and Samantha began thinking about the Renaissance Festival back in January when they learned the entertainment directors were sponsoring workshops to find performers. “We went because we thought it would be fun to see what was going on,” Inger said.
It didn’t take long for them to decide they wanted to be part of it. After surviving a series of auditions followed by weekly rehearsals in April they were members of the cast. “We’re so glad we decided to do it,” Inger said. “Cast members are like family. We’re more than just friends. We help each other out. It truly is a positive environment.”
And it might not end when the festival closes next month.
“I’m having such a good time,” Samantha said. “I hope we do it again next year.”