She’s gracious. She’s intelligent. She’s unbelievably popular. She’s…the Queen of the Texas Renaissance Festival. She’s also my friend!
So many of you know her, have taken photos with her, have given her little gifts, let her hold your babies, have taken her to your hearts. But you may not know the lady who wears the crown: Rosella Gonzales.
I distinctly remember the day she was cast. My husband Travis (now TRF’s Marketing Director) and I auditioned to join the TRF Performance Company the same year Rosella did, 2000. But she auditioned on a different weekend. That night, we met Entertainment Director Jeff Baldwin and his lovely wife Brandi (Asst. ED and the fantastic Fancy Bordello) for Tex-Mex at Tortuga’s in The Woodlands. Jeff was excited about a beautiful Latina woman who had auditioned, and he wanted to cast her as Catherine of Aragon. Fluent in Spanish, beautiful of face and figure, he just knew she’d be a great addition to the company. And she was.
When I asked Rosella what made her decide to audition, she said it was the challenge. Her brother and a friend, Clif, thought it would be a fun new opportunity, and Rosella thought she might just be cast as a Spanish wench. Prior to the Performance Company, she had only spoken one line on stage in a high school play. Rosella remembers that the improv part of the audition came pretty easily for her, but that the script reading was harder, and her hands shook as they held the script.
Of her first year as Queen Catherine, Rosella remembers being terrified throughout the season, but that the seasoned performers helped and encouraged her immensely. She told me about a knighting ceremony rehearsal at which she just knew she would mess up a line. She shared that worry with the King (Greg Taylor) and Basil Drake (Dane Bennett), who assured her that she’d do fine, then promptly forgot their own lines in the run through.
Nina Burks, who at that time played Anne Boleyn, tells a story she calls “The Queen is a Screamer:”
“For the Record: This is told solely from my point of view. It also happened years ago, but the main points of this story are true and accurate as I remember them. Background Information:
A) It’s the year 2000. Rosella Gonzalez was enjoying her first year as Queen Catherine of Aragon. It was also a seriously bad rain year.
B) I was playing Anne Boleyn and was in charge of a group called “The Queen’s Ladies.” We were supposed to be her waiting women, even though we never really waited on her. I ran the Queen’s Ladies with the direction of them being learned noble women who were to each have some kind of charitable cause, like a group of rich Hollywood types.
C) “The King’s Men”, another similar group, were agroup of the ‘King’s buddies’ that were more like a bunch of Frat Boys out partying at this festival.
D) Miss Ellen was still playing Queen Margaret of Scotland. For those that don’t know Miss Ellen need to be aware that she is THE QUEEN of what we call F.Y.B. aka “F___ Your Buddy”. Despite what the name implies, it means putting your acting partner on the spot in some ridiculous situation and watch them squirm their way out of it. This is why she’s my faire hero. Seriously. She and Dane have been masters of this game for years. Should you see the two of them next to each other, either get in the game or hide, because you’ll be the target.
So it was a beautiful sunny day in October at the Texas Renaissance Festival. The Queen’s Ladies, King’s Men, The Pirates and Queen Margaret were killing time before the start of the afternoon Knighting Ceremony by playing a game of “Cringers and Screamers” next to the old battlemound.
The Pirates had developed this game several years before and it was a particular favorite. The game basically consists of picking an appropriate ‘target’ in the near distance. The ‘Target’ is generally some cute young thing that’s walking in a pack of other cute young things. Once the group decides on the ‘Target’, bets are placed and Capt. Drake would take a round about course to sneak up behind the target as they were walking. At which point he would VERY Loudly scream “GARRRRRRRR”in their ear. If the ‘Target’ Cringes,it’s one point. If the ‘Target’ Screams, it’s two points. Should there be no reaction, it was a draw. (I just can’t seem to recall if there were points for pants wetting.) The winner was whomever chose the appropriate response of the Target.
So, we’re playing this game. We’ve all won some and lost some. And we were in the middle of picking a new target. I look up the hill from the battlemound toward the Wharfside Music Gazebo and see the procession of the King, Queen and Guard. “Captain Drake! What about Her Majesty?”
“Oh No…..that wouldn’t be a good idea..that’s just….No”.
Miss Ellen takes out a hand full of coins, flings them at the ground, raises her fist in the air, throws her head back and says “SCREAMER!”
Now. This was NOT Queen Margaret challenging Capt. Basil Drake. This was, however, Miss Ellen triple dog daring Dane to do it. Dane was defenseless. His FYB master status was at question and Miss Ellen knew it. It was truly a glorious sight to behold as she sat there and stared at him with her trademark impish grin. He had no choice but to accept the challenge and the characters got into the action of making this shenanigan happen.
Mary Allen and I –think- Jody Townsley were sent to distract the guards. Alan Linnen is particularly easily misled by these two vixens. As they were being led off to the side by these pretty things, Dane took that moment to pounce with a mighty “GARRRRRRRRR!” into the Queen’s Ear.
Rosella SCREAMED and jumped what I swear was 10 feet in the air. As she reached the peak of her trajectory she spun in mid air, then Queen Catherine came out and started hurling Spanish insults as she was landing back on her feet.
Dane starts running down the hill to where the rest of us are dying laughing. As Dane is running, Rosella is tearing him a new one in English and Spanish. I’m pretty sure her hair was also on fire because there was smoke certainly coming out of her ears. Greg (who plays Henry VIII) is screaming at Dane “DRAKE! DROP!”
Dane falls to the ground and Rosella starts jumping all over him. Literally. Jumping. With boots. He’s red from laughing. We’re by the battlemound absolutely in tears over this. The crowd is completely entranced as to what the hell is going on.
Rosella gets done tenderizing Dane’s back and then sees us. Yup. The rest of us…The ten or so King’s Men, the eleven Queen’s Ladies, the seven or so Pirates and one very pleased with herself Miss Ellen.
She comes tearing down the lane, red faced, upset and half laughing. Behind her is Greg, who obviously can’t decide if he’s pissed or if he’s laughing. All of us (minus Ellen) hit a knee.
They tear into us while trying so hard not to break character. We are all having to look at the ground to keep from busting apart. She is telling us how disappointed she is with her ladies. As I was the head of the Queen’s Ladies, I get the brunt of the fury. “Lady Anne! Do you have any control over these ladies? What sort of maids are you!…” Then Greg pipes Up “AND GAMBLING! When did I authorize any of you to gamble?” “Your Majesty! It was all for charity! We were…ummm…gambling our humble earnings in hopes at educating the children! YES! The Children of this poor poor village.”
Ellen is just laughing with that grin on her face while we are taking our needed beating.
Greg finally gets Rosella to gather herself under the nearby arbor. We ladies decide to supplicate ourselves to our queen by laying face down in the muck. And when I say muck, I mean muck. We were head to toe in damp leaves and detritus and cat urine smelling muck. All of this while our hoops are perpendicular to the ground. We were a hell of a sight.”
Have you ever wondered if the Performance Company has a good time?
Many of you will remember the character “Mona Lisa, played by Stacy Bakri, who also played Mary Boleyn and joined the cast the same year Rosella and I did. She reminded me of the following:
“I remember the day, I want to say it was 2002-ish, that she did not show up at TRF in the morning. Turns out, she was at the ER because she had become violently ill during the night and it was so bad that she deemed it prudent to go to the hospital. Being the amazing trooper she was, she ended up making it to TRF in time for the noon parade. That was some serious dedication right there.”
Rosella lives a very full life outside the TRF grounds. A geologist who works in the oil and gas industry, she manages accounts and helps clients deal with software, geologic, and engineering issues. Her career has enabled her to travel extensively, with Spain, Australia, and Ireland being favorite destinations.
In addition to travel, Rosella loves playing sports like soccer and volleyball, horseback riding (she has the sweetest little filly named Sucre), and sewing (in addition to the gorgeous costumes that TRF has made for her, she has made some beautiful costumes of her own).
She has two sons, twins Isaac and Anthony, who spent their teen years here at TRF. Her grandson Christian can now be seen accompanying her to all of her royal stops, including the joust, on a Festival day. In fact, on the last Monday, after packing up camp to head home, Christian asked how long it would be until Festival, and upon hearing the answer, said, “Oh, I have to be sad for ten months?” It’s a special place, young man, it really is.
When asked what her favorite part of being Queen is, Rosella says, “I love playing with the kids. Families come back year after year and you see kids growing up. I love interacting with the patrons. I also love that in my professional life I am not longer afraid to get up in front of people.”
I am just glad that in the spring of 2000 Rosella also decided to audition for TRF, so that my life, and the lives of so many others, could be blessed by knowing her, whether as Rosella or as Her Majesty, The Queen.