Sometimes, dreams don't come true.

A half-hour comedy series

WHAT THE SHOW'S ABOUT

RenFest is a TV comedy that explores the office politics of putting on a Renaissance festival, and all the quirky personalities involved. 

This particular festival has the unfortunate experience of hiring Elisabeth Crönk as the new second assistant general manager—she's a clueless yet tirelessly optimistic and politically correct academic historian that is oblivious to the festival culture—and with her comes AK, her Somali-American assistant.

For the crafters, vendors, acts and players—all the accountants and dental hygienists cum gallant lords and royal maidens—the festival is already everything it should be: fun. 

But for Elisabeth, it's a chance to give children an historically authentic educational experience addressing the crisis in American education, and that doesn’t include storm troopers or faeries.

Politics and battles of profound import and little consequence ensue. RenFest is a thoroughly entertaining workplace satire that will have you snorting your turkey leg as it skewers today's complex social and workplace issues ripped from the headlines and writ ridiculously small—but with a big heart.

Why is this show special? 

Easy. The show's creators are all seasoned professionals, we know what we're doing, we already did it in proof-of-concept form with a 2-minute trailer and a 10-minute mini-pilot. We've got a full and excited production team standing by and ready to rock and we want to make a full-length pilot and many more episodes - with the help of everyone who:

A) is a nerd

B) likes to laugh

C) is a fan of Renaissance festivals, LARPing, gaming, Comic-Con, STEM, and/or Trekkie conventions

D) Has survived office politics

E) Has an axe to grind

6) is a nerd.

"This isn't theater. This is way, way below theater."

THE WORLD

The show is set in the world of an American renaissance festival and the behind-the-scenes work lives of the nerds and other “misfit toys" who staff it. It could be any one of the scores of enormously popular renaissance festivals around the country, which are attended by millions of people annually. 

When these office workers are not creating insurance apps, anesthetizing patients, or recording title work, they are lords and ladies, they are pantsless aliens at the local ComicCon, they are fencing ne'er-do-wells at gaming conventions or they are communing with other Na'vi at LARPing weekends in the wild woods of Wisconsin.

But now, for six weekends a year, they are here, they are in costume, and they are ready to rumble. The show’s creators get this world and the passionately-held dreams of its inhabitants, and want to honor them in true RenFest style, where the jokes have layers, and where everything that is laughable is important, and everything that is important is laughable, and where there are layers of history that don't always match up.

Think Parks and Rec meets Best in Show meets your office's water cooler, shot live amid the festival’s medieval set and backstage alleys, while using real players and attendees as participants.

In a word: huzzah!

"I am the Knight of Poverty, and he's my squire."

WHAT CARRIES THE SHOW

The show is carried week to week by the comedic mishaps of Elisabeth Crönk — a sort of Diane Chambers meets Leslie Knope — as she bumbles through the office politics and upsets the delicate cultural balance between all the varied personalities — and eras — involved in putting on an American renaissance festival.

An academic historian hired as the new manager, Elisabeth brings her own agenda to the workplace. She has a huge but somewhat sheltered heart, and she is cluelessly at odds with every other person at the festival, each of whom have their own reasons for being there — from “acting”, to hand-over-fist moneymaking, to role-playing weekend escapes from cubicle hell — but none have anything to do with authenticity the way Elisabeth sees it. This comedic conflict creates endless opportunities for Elisabeth to blunder through the issues of the modern workplace.

"Are you fighting my sports bar idea?"


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  • STRUCTURE

    The show has a hub and spoke structure. Elisabeth, the Second Assistant General Manager, is an administrator. She is the hub and serves as the gateway to the various spokes (groups) within and around the Festival: the traveling acts, the “royalty,” the “playtrons,” the merchants, the security, the jousters, the minstrels, the food workers, the local fire marshal, the City Council, the police, etc. Each episode chronicles Elisabeth’s blunders with the politics of the different factions of the RenFest world.

  • TONE

    Office politics in the world of RenFests. Elisabeth is the well-meaning bull-in-a-china-shop new boss, a grandiose and clueless idealist in a world of resigned realists. The ironic tone pits political correctness against bawdy honesty, art against commerce, freedom against restrictions, and ridiculous characters against their big dreams. In short, this is modern America, and we have playful fun with every aspect of the modern workplace and society.

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"This is the Island of Misfit Toys, and we’re comfortable with that."

THE CHARACTERS

Like modern-day Dr-Jekyll-and-Mr-Hydes, most of the denizens of RenFest are low-key, unassuming “normals” in their daily lives. But something about the Festival lets their freak flags fly. When in costume, they assume personas that let them be brash and brazen, bawdy and otherwise inappropriate, perhaps compensating for thier buttoned-up "normal" personalities the rest of the year. And yet, even here, office politics come in, to hilarious effect. 

These are the folks who never quite hit the mark with their loftier entertainment aspirations, like taking Broadway by storm, or creating a hit Vegas show like Penn & Teller, or becoming a major pop singer like Jason Mraz. They know that people with that caliber of talent would never get their start at RenFest. That’s ridiculous. Oh wait a minute—they did?

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ELISABETH CRÖNK

Mary Jo Pehl

"This is our chance to teach! And to do! And... teach!"

As the newly-hired Second Assistant General Manager of the Renaissance Festival (there is no first assistant), Elisabeth is at odds with the RenFest world in every way. Her boss is a ridiculous failed entertainer and despot whose claim to fame is that he once bested the pickle boy on the jousting field. The well-meaning owner values the balance she brings but becomes beleaguered as she constantly stirs the pot. Her “employees” are anything but authentic. But Elisabeth is an irrepressibly impractical and politically correct academic, a Donna Quixote who puts on a smile and a cheerful face, and endeavors endlessly to bend this weird and colorful world to her misguided will.

Cheerfully grandiose, overly educated and not afraid to remind you of it, Elisabeth has an almost-PhD in renaissance theatrical set design history—“a program I designed myself”—which she has been working on for over a decade. She believes this makes her uniquely qualified to run a “more historically accurate” renaissance festival.

Driven by her belief in the purity of her “mission,” she bucks herself up, puts on her cheerful face, and continues, unstoppably, whenever she encounters a setback, her mission an unreachable star, and her faith in it undaunted.

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LLOYD GUNDERSON

David 'Gruber' Allen

"If I could, I would charge people a second fee to be able to leave and go home."

Elisabeth’s boss and the General Manager and entertainment director of the festival, Lloyd has run a bit amok with his power. He is a small, ridiculous, yet somehow brilliant despot in the world of RenFest. He is a self-described “hands-off” boss – who finds ways to micromanage Elisabeth at every turn. With his constant focus on entertainment, Lloyd comes up with outlandish and entirely inappropriate ideas that nevertheless make even more money, helping to secure his power with the perfectly reasonable festival owner, who must balance Lloyd's and Elisabeth's competing interests of entertainment and authenticity. Lloyd has never had someone like Elisabeth challenge him in front of the owner, so this puts him in an unexpected hot spot that he resents. Behind it all is his faith in the redeeming role of entertainment. Somehow it all works in the weird world of RenFest.

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THE VIKING

Trace Beaulieu

"You’re ridiculous. Pinot grigio?"

The court philosopher of RenFest, the Viking is, by his very presence, inauthentic. Naturally, this sticks in Elisabeth’s craw – but he may be the lone voice of reason and a potential ally. The Viking has been with the Fest since it began and he has a clear-eyed view of the world within the festival gates and the one outside. An old friend and long-time confident of Lloyd’s, the Viking nevertheless sees something in Elisabeth’s drive and idealism that he can appreciate.

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ABDIKADIR HASSAN (AK)

Jamal Farah

"I couldn’t tell if she was being racist or sexist, but I knew she thought she was khattar."

The festiuval's diversity hire, Elisabeth’s main assistant/foil/frienemy is a deadpan but ultimately upbeat, culture-busting 20-something Somali American. AK, as he prefers to be called, doesn’t take it all too seriously – much to Elisabeth’s frustration. As far as he’s concerned he’s just there to do a job – or not, in his case.

Elisabeth is AK's opposite in many ways. He’s a more innocent Somali Assif Mandvi. He’s very droll and very serious, but he’s also taken in by the festival's fun and by Elisabeth's perky oblivious earnestness, and eventually he becomes very dedicated to her “vision” though neither of them can define exactly what that vision is.

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THE OTHER CHARACTERS

"Everybody here wanted to be something bigger but didn’t make the cut."

There are endless opportunities to create episodes over Elisabeth’s ill-fit interactions with the many other players in this unique "office" environment. They have a hierarchy: Land owners, Administration, Site Crew, Security Team, Stage Acts, Local Performers, Crafters, and Playtrons, and Elisabeth manages to disrupt all of them.

THE AUDIENCE

RenFest appeals to a broad audience through its humor and human insights. It draws from the tens of millions of fans of Renaissance Festivals, ComiCons, LARPing, gaming, Mystery Science Theater 3000, RiffTrax, Cinematic Titanic, and Sci Fi. 

Because of these active fan bases, there are outreach mechanisms already in place through social media, fan groups, and fan festivals and conferences such as ComicCon, Cinematic Titanic, and Renaissance Festivals.

Ultimately, the series will appeal to an even broader audience through its universal humor. Parks & Rec was not just for city government fans and Arrested Development was not just for fans of rich dysfunctional families. Similarly, anyone who has ever worked in an office or on a creative production with other people will recognize and enjoy RenFest's interactions. 

THE EPISODES

  • RenFest explores today's complex and fraught office politics in a - er - smaller way, as it chronicles the arrival of Elisabeth, the clueless new second assistant general manager with an irrepressible and inappropriate drive to transform the Renaissance Festival culture and its mish-mash of players into an historically accurate, educational theatrical experience that teaches appreciation for the Enlightenment. Unfortunately, the Renaissance Festival players are not particularly keen on the Elisabeth's plan. But that's just the beginning...

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Season 1

  • EP1: Cowboys in Kilts

    Elisabeth lands the job as second assistant GM and bumbles her way into overturning a lot of the natural political balance of the festival. An edict by Lloyd over a proposed sports bar throws the land into further disarray.

  • EP2: Queen Elisabeth

    "Queen" Elisabeth issues "inauthenticity citations," causing a mutiny. Lloyd regains the upper hand. AK has to play messenger between opposing Renaissance camps. Viking does some magic to resolve the situation.

  • EP3: Games of Thrones

    Lloyd’s idea for a Game of Thrones throne becomes a surprise hit. The king and queen get in a pissing match that divides the royalty, while a strike at the porta-potty company takes all things throne to a medieval level.

  • EP4: The Moor

    AK fights to have a Somali Day at RenFest and Elisabeth experiences conflict between her need for authenticity and her belief in diversity, and must navigate a path between differing views of political correctness.

  • EP5: Juggling Jokers

    A battle ensues when in Lloyd's absence Elisabeth hires a new juggler who is a technical master and uses authentic period weapons but doesn't know how to tell a joke; and hires a stand-up comedian she thinks is hilarious, but who has no physical comedy routine. Meanwhile, a lost joker in a canasta game divides the crafters.

  • EP6: A Line In The Sand

    Elisabeth draws a line in the sand at the mermaid pond, arguing over what is authentic: the actual fact that there were no mermaids, or the actual fact of renaissance-era belief in mermaids. Authenticity and commerce battle with beauty, while a cosmetics salesman derails things. Viking settles a debate over Muslims inventing renaissance science. Hijabs forever.

  • EP7: Winked In

    A conflict erupts when Elisabeth lists herself at a "creator" of RenFest on a noted social media platform. An endorsing war ensues as festival denizens jockey for online status, and the program starts sending out prompts to congratulate people on their new RenFest positions. Meanwhile, Elisabeth loses her special badge, setting off a fest-wide hunt.

  • EP8: Royals

    Who rules RenFest? The king and queen go passive-aggressive with the national acts and the administration, including Elisabeth. Second class citizens unite! When is a coronation not a coronation? A renaissance psychiatrist is prescribing everyone antidepressants, but somehow things keep getting worse.

  • EP9: Turkey Legs

    A controversy erupts when a James Beard Award-winning chef opens a food stand and sets off a competition for the business of festival foodies. Should RenFest be about locally sourced free range gourmet food? Meanwhile, a case of jock itch breaks out over a misplaced pair of leather pants.  

  • EP10: Playtron

    A new aspiring actor attempts to wile his way in to festival employment but Elisabeth has to talk to him about his weirdly creepy jokes. What is appropriate and inappropriate in an "office" full of double entendre? Elisabeth tries to define it in a contract, which causes an uproar.

  • EP11: Illegal Aliens

    Strange beings arrive from another planet. RenFest royalty descend from another festival, causing a reality inversion and immigration issues, while AK has flashbacks to the camp in Kenya. Who is a real RenFest citizen? A festival-on-festival competition and cookoff to support charity ends badly.

  • EP12: Dirt Circuit

    An unexpected player breaks out big. An opportunity arises to blow up to the dirt circuit, which brings office animosities and insecurities to the fore. Meanwhile, a windstorm inundates the festival with dirt, and Elisabeth gets into a heated argument over climate change adaptation measures.

THE CORE TEAM

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  • TRACE BEAULIEU

    Trace Beaulieu is a comic actor, writer, producer and goofball. He was a founding member of the Emmy nominated, Peabody Award-winning, hit cult show MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 (MST3K). In addition to writing & directing, Trace is currently the voice of A.R.T. the robot on Paul Feig’s OTHER SPACE on Yahoo TV.

    For MST3K, he performed the puppet character Crow T. Robot and the mad scientist, Dr. Clayton Forrester. He repeated these roles in the 1995 film version of the show, MST3K: THE MOVIE. Trace also played a recurring character on FREAKS AND GEEKS and has had cameo appearances on THE WEST WING and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. For six years, he toured with the original cast of MST3K in a live movie riffing show called CINEMATIC TITANIC. Trace also wrote for ABC’s AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS for nine seasons.

  • SHAWN OTTO

    Shawn Otto is an award-winning screenwriter, producer, novelist, and science advocate with fifteen years experience in Hollywood. His credits include writing and coproducing the movie HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG which was nominated for three Academy Awards. 


    In television, Shawn has worked for Starz, Lions Gate, and Epix, and has worked as a writer and developed and sold a television show under legendary TV writer/producer Joel Surnow, co-creator of 24.


    He is the co-creator and producer of the US presidential science debates between Barack Obama and his opponents John McCain and Mitt Romney, and he wrote an award-winning book about science and politics in America. 


    Shawn's recent novel, Sins of Our Fathers, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He is the showrunner of RenFest.

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  • MARY JO PEHL

    Mary Jo Pehl is a writer/performer/producer with Cinematic Titanic, the live version of the Peabody Award-winning TV series MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 for which she was a writer and actor in the recurring role of Pearl Forrester. For these two projects, she has bravely withstood hundreds of the worst movies ever made. 


    Mary Jo has worn out packs of pencils for Austin Monthly, Austin Chronicle, Minnesota Monthly, Minneapolis StarTribune, Catholic Digest, Salon.com, PBS and more.


    Her work is featured in several anthologies, including Life’s A Stitch: The Best of Contemporary Women’s Humor, Travelers’ Tales: The Thong Also Rises, and her new book, Employee of The Month and Other Big Deals. Her commentaries have aired on NPR’s All Things Considered and Weekend America, and The Savvy Traveler on PUBLIC RADIO INTERNATIONAL. As a standup comedian, Mary Jo has appeared on COMEDY CENTRAL and A&E, and in stage productions in New York and Los Angeles. She has also contributed to RiffTrax.

  • PAUL SADEGHI

    Paul Sadeghi is a creative production executive with over 15 years of experience in production, post, and digital content. As VP of Operations for Minneapolis-based creative studio, Pixel Farm, Paul fosters an environment that values compelling storytelling, outstanding design, and the highest quality production standards. With capabilities ranging from live action and VFX to animation, music, and gaming, Pixel Farm is a national leader in multi-platform creative content with a client roster that includes Target, Minnesota Twins, 3M, Purina, among others.


    As a producer and postproduction supervisor, Sadeghi has contributed to numerous film, TV, and branded content projects. With the San Francisco-based visual effects studio, The Orphanage, Sadeghi worked on blockbusters such as Hellboy, Sin City, and The Day After Tomorrow. In addition to managing the editorial team, Paul maintained a key role at The Orphanage’s Original Productions division, leading to the development and production of the films Legion and Priest.

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  • JOE SCHAAK

    Joe Schaak is an award winning director and producer that has been entertaining audiences worldwide with his comedy and dialogue expertise. Schaak’s advertising resume includes directing recognition at Cannes, MoMA, Clios, Effies, AICP Show Honor, The One Show and various Addy awards. His work has also been cited in Adweek’s Best Spots, Communication Arts, Boards, D&AD, and SHOOT’s Director to Watch.


    Schaak’s approach in helping every project reach its fullest potential has enabled him to have relationships with major players like McDonald’s, ESPN, Verizon, Kellogg’s Wrigley’s and General Mills. He has collaborated with agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, DDB, Publicis, Taxi, BBDO, Carmichael Lynch, Campbell Mithun and Rethink. He’s also directed celebrities including William Shatner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Deion Sanders, Shaquille O’Neal, Donald Trump and Britney Spears.

  • JEFF STONEHOUSE

    Jeff has three decades of experience as a highly sought after Cinematographer. He brings a wealth of experience to the party working for numerous award-winning national and international broadcast networks and programs including: COMEDY CENTRAL’S MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, ABC, CBS, BBC, PBS, NOVA, A World of Ideas with Bill Moyers, and Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion 30th Anniversary broadcast special.


    Film projects have taken him to Australia, China, India, Africa, Haiti, Mexico, Hawaii, Europe, and the Arctic Circle. Feature films and Docs. include; Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, A Prairie Home Companion (the movie), and Arts Engine’s Arctic Son. Jeff also contributed cinematography on numerous National Emmy-winning documentaries for national networks including America’s Wetlands and Barbara Kopple’s Dixie Chicks documentary film, Shut Up and Sing.

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CONTACT US

RenFest TV show is in development. Shawn Otto wrote the story, characters, and the episode sketches you see above. Joe Schaak directed a mini-pilot and trailer starring Trace Beaulieu and Mary Jo Pehl, shot by Jeff Stonehouse, and posted at Pixel Farm by Paul Sadeghi — our core team. We laughed our asses off with RenFest friends and our crew because it was incredibly funny! Stay tuned for further developments!

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