Louie Skaradek is — pun intended — a Renaissance man. A regular at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, he is one-third of the wildly entertaining comedy juggling group The London Broil Show. However, the juggling doesn’t end there. His website, Level Up with Louie, offers a buffet of charming interactive activities, like magical live streams, drawing classes and Dungeons & Dragons adventures that satisfy any off-the-beaten-path itch.
Skaradek has been touring Renaissance festivals with London Broil for more than two decades. But the 2022-23 RennFest season will be the spry 48-year-old’s last huzzah, thus ending what is essentially the life of a traveling carnival worker. Having spent almost half of his existence on ye olde road, Skaradek has a lot to reflect on.
Growing up in Crofton, Maryland, a mere 15-minute drive from the Maryland Renaissance Festival, the faire life was practically a foregone conclusion. At the age of 16, Skaradek auditioned to perform at what most consider the best Renaissance festival in the country.
“I split my body in half and did Romeo on one side and Juliet on the other,” Skaradek says. “I would switch back and forth doing various scenes and included some comedy. Unfortunately, I was too young for the cast.”
Soon after, the Maryland Renaissance Festival started a program called the Young Actors Ensemble where they cast people under 18. Skaradek, along with former London Broil member Duncan Pace, won their auditions. But Skaradek’s first year working at the RenFest didn’t involve performing. Instead, he spent his days slowly walking ponies in a circle while children rode them. Still, Skaradek had access to the festival’s main stage where he could watch Johnny Fox the sword swallower, a Maryland Renaissance Festival staple who passed away in December 2017.
“I saw Johnny performing and I said, ‘I gotta do this,’” Skaradek recalls.
So, he kept learning. A couple of guys from the festival’s juggling school would crash with Skaradek and his parents during the weekends.
“They taught me magic and juggling and inspired me to get into it,” Skaradek says.
Skaradek and Pace decided they wanted to do something together, recognizing they had a mutual love of just “being silly.”
“We were making ourselves laugh a lot,” he says, chuckling at the memory.
It was time to put a show together.
Others were equally appreciative of what was forming. Maryland Renaissance Festival artistic director Carolyn Spedden gave them the space and freedom to cultivate their show.
“Carolyn was very gracious and said, ‘Come on in and make an act out of it.’ So, we just plowed ahead and kept going every year.”
They added Matt Connolly to the group and then real road life began. In 1999, they cobbled together a VHS tape of their act and sent it out to the Colorado and Minnesota Renaissance Festivals. This led to a contract with both and a minivan filled with three men, more balls than most and a touring life that rivals that of any local band.
Since then, Pace has been replaced by AJ Lee, and London Broil added a couple more cities to the schedule, but it’s the Maryland Renaissance Festival Skaradek calls home.
Written above its gates are the words “Prepare Thyself for Merriment,” and nothing could be more accurate. Upon walking through these gates, visitors are greeted by a symphony for the senses. Normally, the combination of dirt, bees, sticky treats, mead and a hot Maryland summer sun might make for a bad experience, but at the RenFest, it creates a world not of this world.
“The festival is a nice place to just be who you are without judgment,” Skaradek explains. “Now, when the world is getting stranger, I feel like more people are showing up to be themselves and feel safe.”
That shine certainly hasn’t worn off for Skaradek.
His earliest memories of performing are with the Rennies, people who live and work full-time at the festival. The campgrounds are dotted with tents, tarps, trailers and the occasional couch or coffee table.
“The community out there is a second family,” Skaradek says. “I’ve met so many wonderful people on the road. I’ve seen kids grow up out there.”
Now, one of those kids is about to step into London Broil after Skaradek takes his final bow.
But what does retirement look like for Skaradek? For the past two years, Skaradek has been partially focused on a business he started with his brother called LittlEmpire that designs unique Dungeons & Dragons sets.
“I’m ready for the next adventure,” Skaradek says. “I have more and different stories to tell, geekier jokes to make.”
He recently bought a booth at the Maryland Renaissance Festival where patrons can purchase LittlEmpire wares. Skaradek is swapping out glorious days under the unforgiving sun throwing nail-covered bats at his friends for a slightly cooler craft journey.
“I’m staying in it enough to be connected to the family, friends and audience I grew up with,” Skaradek says. “I’ll be working in a booth where I get to be a wizard all day.”
The Maryland Renaissance Festival runs until October 23. The London Broil Show will perform at the festival until September 25. Learn more at thelondonbroilshow.com.