Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How Many Personas is too Many?

A few years ago I was having a conversation with a friend about branching out into reenacting other time periods and she mentioned that she would have trouble keeping track of too many different personal portrayals. She mentioned that someone she knew got around that problem by being a German milk maid in all the different periods as a way to keep the character, but make different costumes. For me, that would never work because I’d rather have different personas so I can explore different aspects of each time.

Currently I have only a few well fleshed out personas:
Rose, the 12th Century Herb-Wife
Rose started when I flirted with making a 13th century renfaire character, but she found her base when I joined the Medieval Talk Show panel given every year at a middle school in CT. She will really come to life this spring in a new group of 12th century reenactors. Rose is a simple woman, somewhat shallow with a love of home-town gossip. Through Rose I get to investigate herbal medicine, agriculture, textile production, and the birth of the High Middle Ages.

Hanne, 16th Century Baron’s Wife and Camp Frau
Hanne came about when we were starting to form Das Geld Fahnlein. I needed a character that fit into the world of the Landsknecht and as the wife of a nobleman. Hanne is proud of her noble upbringing, and even more proud that she married a Hauptman since her father was a Hauptman. She does not mind getting dirty, and is thrilled to be on campaign and not locked up somewhere like a convent or relative’s castle. Through Hanne I get to research Renaissance Europe, specifically continental Europe, fashion styles and fancy cooking.

Bess Brown, 19th Century Irish Immigrant, Domestic Servant
Bess has been around the block. My first Irish immigrant character was in high school, the next in college, and while Bess only gets to come out and play a few times a year she is feisty, pragmatic, and incredibly fun. I have spent a ton of time researching life in the US in the first half of the nineteenth century, I also know a lot about Ireland in the 1800s as well as domestic relations, industrialization, sanitation and urban life. Of course there is always more to know…

I have a few personas that are less solid but I could still pull out at a moment’s notice:
18th Century middle-class female
At Strawbery Banke I did my first investigations of an 18th Century persona, and I’ve flirted with programs, reenactment events, and personas ever since. In the past few years I’ve found myself drawn towards a more urban and possibly loyalist portrayal, but have not had a real need for it, so this one is still very much up in the air.

Mid 19th Century activist/lecturer
Sometimes Bess is just not right for a particular situation, so I wanted to come up with another 19th century persona. I took a look at where most of my research has been done and it turns out I know a lot about the fringe social movements of the 19th century. For a one-time gig on Pioneer America I made up a persona of a traveling lecturer, a Jewish female who loved the trains and was enthusiastic about everything from women’s suffrage to temperance and beyond. Recently I’ve been reading up on Susan B Anthony, and thinking how her body type and mine are not all that different, I am hoping for a chance to try out Susan B. Anthony very soon.

Here are the ones that if I had my druthers I’d work on next:
17th century noblewoman/herbalist
I love gardening and herbs, and in the 17th century it was the noble women who did most of the tending and physicking among their villagers. I’d love to put more herb knowledge to use, maybe even do some distilling, the clothing is also of interest. I’d love to do more research on the 17th century.

19teens Suffragette
I also need a 20th century portrayal (though some may think need is the wrong word.) Just as I am drawn to Susan B Anthony and the women’s rights movement of the Nineteenth Century, I love the cultural changes taking place among women in the 19teens and 20s. I am fascinated by the urban culture as well as the leisure class. Maybe I should read up on the lives of a few adventuresses.

Anyone have any suggestions? Read this entry on entry page

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Colonial Ball and New Gown

For the past several years we’ve attended only one 18th century event, The Sudbury Minute Militia’s 12th Night Ball. The first time we went, in 2010, we heard about it a few weeks earlier from friends who had been invited by some folks they knew (and we didn’t) but we so wanted to go that we asked for an invitation, and barged our way in. Stephen and I both had 18th C costume bits as we both had “done” Colonial reenacting in our past lives and had flirted with the possibility of picking it back up. Last year we went again, invited a few friends of our own, and each of us made yet a few more additions to our colonial wardrobes: I made a quilted petticoat and stays so my under layers would be a bit more appropriate.

Shortly after last year’s colonial ball I attended a Hive workshop, an incredibly informative workshop offered by local reenactors for those who might not know as much they do, or for those who want to get together and share during the colder months. All the workshops plus some other research I was doing at the time convinced me that I needed an actual colonial gown, not just the purchased jacket and some petticoats. Since I had the appropriate undergarments I was ready to take the plunge and signed up for a Burnley and Trowbridge gown making course. I never made it there. But I still had my lovely fabric, plus all the research I’d done, and by the time this winter came around I was actually able to look at the fabric again and think about this addition to my colonial wardrobe.

Since it is not my period, and my sewing skills were picked up catch as catch can I asked a professional costumer friend for help. She was so awesome she agreed to spend an overnight at my house, draft a pattern for me based on the books we both had, and help me get started putting the whole thing together. We picked the weekend before Christmas. I got a horrible cold at the beginning of December, but I was not about to put this gown off again. So my personal gown goddess came for her visit, and did more than just draft me a pattern, she helped me put a lot of the bodice together and set me well on my way.

I spent 2 and a half weeks hand sewing the seams flat, plus all the hemming that needed to be done, and finished the dress the night before this year’s Colonial Ball. I think it turned out rather well if I do say so myself!

The evening is always a fun one. Everyone is in a good mood, and I love dancing and don’t get to do it enough. I’m starting to recognize folks who dance every year. It is cold and biting in January, but the Inn is warm and full of colonial character.

Read this entry on entry page

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year, 100th Post

Welcome to 2012!

Quite a lot happened in 2011, some good some not-so-good, but on the whole I am enjoying life and looking forward to the future. I am also welcoming 2012 with my 100th blog post! I'm pretty proud of myself for keeping this up since beginning in 2008. I was hoping to have a lot more entries this past year, a lot more podcasts, a lot more book reviews. Still, I'm pleased with what I was able to put out there, and think that the coming year has the potential to be even better! Read this entry on entry page