Cathedral students bring school out of the Dark Ages with Renaissance fair

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

 Derick Nunez presents a project on apothecaries and medicine during the Renaissance. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Derick Nunez presents a project on apothecaries and medicine during the Renaissance. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

By Casey Voyles

NATCHEZ — Cathedral High School seniors presented their fellow students with a Renaissance fair fit for a queen — or king.

Fair maidens Abby Massey and Maggie Kelley, at right, learn a Renaissance-style dance as Evan Webber pushes Mackenzie Watts in a rolling cart, at right, during a jousting demonstration with Elizabeth Smith and Natalie Fletcher.

Fair maidens Abby Massey and Maggie Kelley, at right, learn a Renaissance-style dance as Evan Webber pushes Mackenzie Watts in a rolling cart, at right, during a jousting demonstration with Elizabeth Smith and Natalie Fletcher.

Inspired by a recent trip to the Renaissance fair in Hammond, La., English teachers Sheryl Hunt and Jean Biglane, with the help of history teacher Brandy Mann, encouraged their classes to generate projects focused around the Renaissance era.

The three saw the effort as a cross-curriculum project, meaning their work would require them to call upon skills from more than one academic discipline to complete.

Students had individual roles within their group, which contributed to the overall project presented at the fair.

“There are projects from all disciplines — math, science, even art and drama,” Hunt said.

On Monday, the Cathedral seniors got the chance to display their hard work to the elementary, middle and other high school students.

Merchants, knights and even fortunetellers filled the Cathedral Elementary School gymnasium.

Senior Maggie Kelley played Miranda from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” Her group mixed themes about the lords and ladies of the feudal system and also “The Tempest.”

Coach James Woodard gets knighted by John Ashton Hicks , who with Craig Bradley and William Doss presented a project on the Crusades during the school’s renaissance fair. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Coach James Woodard gets knighted by John Ashton Hicks , who with Craig Bradley and William Doss presented a project on the Crusades during the school’s renaissance fair. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Dressed in a flowing gown, Kelley acted as a newlywed bride and was surrounded by her ladies, who sang songs of blessings and danced about. As the younger students passed by the group presentation, Kelley helped them to understand the meaning behind it all.

“They just thought we were all princesses so we had to explain it to them,” Kelley said. The ladies wore masks to symbolize motherhood, love and fertility. The songs, made up of poetry, acted as a blessing to the new couple’s marriage.

“We spoke in British accents at the beginning but that faded off,” said Kelley. “It was a lot more fun than everyone expected it to be.”

Across the gym, visitors had the opportunity to journey through Dante’s Inferno. Biglane, in her 28th year of teaching, said emulating Dante’s Inferno’s nine circles of Hell was quite an undertaking for the seniors.The students stayed after school about two and half hours on April 10 and worked another hour Monday to piece together what turned into a dimly lit trail of smoke, eerie music and characters stretching from the back wall of the gymnasium out past the basketball net.

The students described it as an apparatus with sounds of rain, thunder, screaming and chilling lullabies.

“The muted lighting made shadows move where you weren’t sure what they were until they came out,” Biglane said.

The tour ended in the ninth circle of hell, which was the coldest of all the levels, just as described in Dante’s Inferno. Satan, played by senior Jay Vaughan, wore black, arm-length wings and munched on figurines. He evoked screams from the middle school girls.

Landon Havard prepares to shoot with his tiny bow and arrow. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Landon Havard prepares to shoot with his tiny bow and arrow. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Only the middle and high school students were allowed to enter the inferno.

“It’s probably good that they shut it down before the little children came. It was pretty scary,” said Biglane.

A total of eight seniors worked on the Dante’s Inferno.

“It was the most fun out of everyone else’s projects because it was more interactive,” said Senior Arden McMillin, actress from the second circle of Hell representing lust.

The seniors involved in the fair were in the gymnasium from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.