I was once told you don’t ask “why” in Cambridge. You ask “since when?” Cambridge is full of funny little academic traditions and peculiarities but most of them cannot be explained to us mortals. At least not exactly why. But usually they can tell you since when…!
Q:“Why can’t you walk on the grass?
A: “Don’t know.”
Q: “Since when can’t you walk on the grass?”
A: “Oh, since 1806!” or something like that. (I made that up: not the prohibition about walking on the grass, mind you, but the exact year…)
I confess I haven’t asked “since when have the college May Balls been held in June?” Probably they used to operate in semesters, and finish in April/May like US universities still do. Now they operate on a trimester basis, or in Terms. All I know is: the May Balls are in June, and everybody accepts it.
The May Balls are like proms on steroids. They are all-night affairs, that involve all you can eat, all you can drink, all you can dance, all you can listen to bands, flamboyant decorations, thematic concepts, fireworks (the colleges are loaded, did I mention), carnival games, entertainers and the dresses. Everybody dresses up fancy, and partys all night. And all this is yours for the humble cost of £150-170 per person.
Long lines of (mostly) young people line up outside their college’s (or their friends)–for hours–for the tightly security controlled events. These long queues take usually a solid 2 hours to actually enter the Balls once they start moving, so it’s a good thing the events carry on all night or you’d never get your shot at the hor d’oeuevres .
Honestly, they look fun!
This year I was hired as an entertainer. I auditioned (back in January) at multiple auditions—there are 20-something different colleges—even though I was miserably sick. Hawkgirl made me go. I didn’t want to leave the couch. But in her defense, They were great opportunities. I’ve had a solid week of night performances (the vampire shift for several of them); sometimes performing for the queueing guests, sometimes wandering the Balls themselves, and even the odd stage set!
For me it was a welcomed opportunity to dust off my The Jester character. The Jester is a black-and-white jester—a white face clown really. He talks. Incorporated into the mime tricks of illusion and characters and slow motion is The Jester’s knack for rattling off nonsense poetry, and chattering with patrons about this or that invisible adventure in the magical lands of Iz, where everything is invisible—and he brought back a few souvenirs to show, if only you could see them…!
Premiered for the Connecticut Renaissance Faire in 2007, he hasn’t seen much action since 2008, where he won the unofficial Court Jester Competition at King Arthur’s Court. He was up against some tough competition: a juggler Fool, and Arthur’s own bumbling knight Dagonet. But since then, alas, I simply lacked the appropriate atmosphere to revisit the exotic and over-the-top character.
Until May Balls!
Stay tuned for next entry’s report of The Jester’s exploits.