Renaissance Faire staff quits over 2 owners’ link to Unbearables group

  • A jouster with Stormy Knights drives his lance into the ground at the Massachusetts Renaissance Faire. The entire production team for this year’s fair resigned over the associations of some of its owner with the group the Unberables. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Tolgy Wood: Chesterfield Camp was the site of a meetup of members of the group the Unbearables earlier this year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2021

The entire administrative staff of the Massachusetts Renaissance Faire has resigned over ties between two of the fair’s owners and a group centered on a former comedian who expounds bigotry and conspiracy theories.

“The association of certain members of the ownership with a group that disseminates hate speech has forced us to take action,” the letter reads.

While the owners in question are not named in the letter, signatories have identified them as Paul Dabkowski and his wife, two of the seven owners of the event.

The group in question also is not named in the letter, but multiple signatories have confirmed it to be the Unbearables, a community of fans of comedian Owen Benjamin for whom he has become a central figure.

Benjamin, who was once engaged to actress Christina Ricci and had a role in the movie “The House Bunny,” is a regular internet streamer. He has issued a number of antisemitic and anti-LGBT statements, and has embraced conspiracies including that the Earth is flat and that humans have never visited the moon.

In one recording, Benjamin says that he is a homophobe and wants to keep homosexuals away from his kids and out of public office. In another, he says Jews killed Jesus and expresses disgust at the Jewish holy book, the Talmud.

Additionally, he posted on Instagram that Holocaust victim and author Anne Frank did not exist.

In addition to following the content of and interacting with Benjamin, a number of the Unbearables also have a focus on homesteading.

The Massachusetts Renaissance Faire was started in 2015 under the name The Market of the Moons. The same ownership group owns the Tolgy Wood: Chesterfield Camp campground, and the fair is held annually at the Cummington Fairgrounds, although it wasn’t held in person in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three of those who signed the open letter expressed disgust with Benjamin’s views.

“Everybody loved the fair, loved working for the fair,” said Seana Lamothe, who has been involved in the Massachusetts Renaissance Faire for at least five years.

Lamothe said that earlier this year she went to Tolgy Wood, the campground owned by the same ownership group as the Renaissance Faire, where she met a man who asked her if she was there for the Bear Potluck and asked for assistance.

Lamothe thought that meant it was a potluck associated with a gay male subculture, something she said she didn’t find unusual as a person who grew up in Northampton, but then the man left without accepting her help when it was clear that she wasn’t part of the group.

Lamothe didn’t think much of this interaction, but then information began trickling in about the Unbearables, and the Dabkowskis’ association with them, and she learned that the Bear Potluck was a meeting of Unbearables. In August, two months after the fair, the production team met and determined that they could no longer continue working for the fair.The production team then shared the information they had with the entire adult cast at a meeting.

“They were all very much against continuing,” Lamothe said.

She also said that almost the entirety of the cast, 18 people in all, signed the letter disassociating themselves from the fair.

Lyndsey Luther, who played Morgan LeFay at the fair this year, was another cast member who signed the letter. She said the views that Benjamin espouses are “despicable.”

“I did not trust that my fair family would be safe around these people,” Luther said, referring to the Unbearables.

She also said that she has a lot of friends on the renaissance fair circuit who are Jewish.

“It makes me angry,” Luther said of Benjamin’s antisemitism. “It makes me incredibly angry.”

Sally Jenkins, another signatory, said that she has been playing the role of Queen Titania at the fair since 2016.

“I have a lot of really wonderful memories,” Jenkins said, noting how people told her that kids appreciated her role.

Jenkins said that she listened to what the production staff had to say about the situation with the Unbearables. When she researched Benjamin online, she said, she heard him make racist, anti-transgender and anti-gay statements.The Massachusetts Renaissance Faire released the following statement:

“Tolgy Wood and The Massachusetts Renaissance Faire do not support hate groups or their philosophy of fear and division in any way. We are saddened by the departure of our friends and colleagues over false allegations that the ownership has engaged in hateful activities, and wish them well in their future feats of creativity.”

“The Massachusetts Renaissance Faire supports diversity, equity, and inclusion as we strive to produce the best Faire experience around, and we have had a Safe Space Policy since the beginning. We are dedicated to providing a harassment-free event experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of event participants in any form.”

Dabkowski also released a statement but insisted that it be printed in full or not quoted at all.

A statement was also posted to Tolgy Wood’s Facebook page stating that they were saddened to learn about the views of a past renter, and did not condone hate in any form. However, that post is no longer visible.