Though there are plenty of plays and movies, on historical topics some of the most dramatic theater is often done at museums, renaissance faires and history events. There are many things about these performances that make them unique, but it is my opinion that audience participation and interaction are key. In theatrical terms, there is a name for the wall that separates the audience from the action, the 4th wall. Most plays and movies subscribe to the convention that there is an invisible wall --invisible to the audience but real to the characters in the play/movie-- in between the audience and the action, so we as audience can see the characters acting as if they are alone. Modern plays invoke the 4th wall less and less, while movies only rarely break the 4th wall to address the audience directly.
Actors in “Historical event” settings, like museums and renaissance faires, often find their best work is done with the audience. Sometimes performances in these settings look like story telling sessions, where the characters act more as if they were telling a story than if they were living the moment, other performances are interactive, with the needs and wants of the audience dictating the direction that the performance will take. It is very easy to get emotionally invested in this type of performance, often the loose script revolves around this emotional connection. Sometimes the connection is made through humor or entertainment, as is often found at renaissance faires, while at museums the connection is often based on biography and the personal connections a character can make to our own time and place.
Though I have seen some dramatic “staged” performances at historical events (i.e. the kind where there is a 4th wall, or at least some audience separation) my favorites are by far the interactive performances.
Photos of Richard Bingham (left, played by Stephen Pasker) talking swords after an ATACC demo, and Sheriff Bracken (right, played by Ron Beaudion) giving an audience member a "ticket". Photos by Jess Boynton.
Portland Place in 1815
14 hours ago