It all began when Mid America Festivals – a Minnesota based corporation that puts on a number of Renaissance festivals across the United States – acquired the rights to produce the Sarasota Medieval Faire and decided to move it to one weekend earlier. In doing so it removed the scheduling conflict that the Faire had with the Bay Area Renaissance Festival and gave fans the ability to attend both events. This also enabled Mid America Festivals to draw upon their cache of necessary equipment, workers, scenery, costumes, props, and entertainers for use at both events.
For the first time performers from the Largo festival were asked to interact with those from Sarasota . Jef Hall and Riki Robinson jumped at the chance. For years they had both been playing non-speaking characters, with Jef entertaining as the mime and Riki portraying the Elf, but now they had the opportunity to dig a little deeper and see what they might pull from their untapped actor arsenal. It was at one of the performer workshops in Sarasota that the duo began kicking around ideas for their new Renaissance characters.
They would become a pair of gypsy brothers in search of their lost princess. Twins even, since at the time many people confused them for each other. And the name – made up from something sounding both ethnic and easy on the ears. The pun “ Tortuga ” was taken from an underground comic book named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Jef taking the cartoon hero’s name of Donatello – a name he would later change to D’Angelo – and Riki choosing Raphael for himself. Little did they know the hell they would go through when the comic book became a world-wide sensation. With the crux of their short skit being written at a fast-food restaurant near festival grounds, the two as yet untried entertainers were ready to go.
It was a bright and sunny Thursday when the two unveiled their creation to the world. The faire’s parade was winding to a close when a cry went out and two twin brothers proclaimed that they had at last found their long, lost princess. In truth, the Renaissance festival world had just found something that it did not even know it had been missing. By the time the skit had played out, the crowd of happy onlookers that had stopped to watch and stayed to applaud astounded both Jef and Riki. They were a surrounded, they were a success, and they were drunk with the thrill of it. But, most importantly, they were at the beginning of the rest of their lives.
Largo followed Sarasota and festival season followed festival season. New were the names D’Angelo and Raphael and Tortuga , and they were spoken breathlessly on the lips of everyone who saw them. The after-parade skit grew, first into a lane act and then into a full-fledged stage show. It was an amazing time for the young Tortugas, and things were about to get exponentially better.