Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Intensive Immersive Weekend

Back in April I participated in a fantastic event, I’m only just writing it up now because it takes time for me to mull things over, and because the museum opened this month so I’ve been getting my bearings at work. But about the event: My friend Kristina and I drove out to Indiana from New Hampshire (14 driving hours, one way) to join up with a bunch of other folks who reenact 16th Century and spend the weekend in an old fort, in character, all weekend. Woah.

So this event, called: “A Soldier’s Resolution, an Early Modern Muster of Arms” was sponsored by a 16th C reenacting group out of the Midwest, who patterned their event off of the “School for the Renaissance Soldier” a long-time event out in California. Stephen actually went out to SRS many years ago and had a great time. This time only Kristina and I out of all the members of Das Geld Fahnlein were able to attend, and it was certainly a time to remember, in a good way.

Why was this event so cool? It was an immersive event: in period in character all the time. And for the whole of Saturday it succeeded, at least for all the folks that interacted with us. We were in old Fort Wayne, a working reproduction so everything inside the fort walls looked pretty good, and was usable! We slept in soldier's bunks in an upstairs room warmed by a fireplace. When packing I stuffed one of our soldier’s pallets with wool roving and quilt batting, then packed three wool blankets (two of them handspun, including this one)  and a big wool cloak which ended up staying on my bed. I packed some stuff to make our bunk room period, a chamber pot, painting of Mary, pitcher and bowl for washing. It turned out no one else in the other bunk rooms bothered to hide their modern stuff, but our room looked great. I loved stepping out on our balcony and seeing the Polish guys going at each other with swords, and the women standing huddled in their cloaks in the kitchen door.

There were probably 40 people total, which is way more folks from the sixteenth century than I've ever seen in one place. I've been to bigger events, but they covered much larger periods of time, or they were portraying American History. Folks were portraying nationalities and ethnicities from all over Europe, but that was totally period, the armies arrayed against the Ottoman Turks in the 16th Century were made up of units from Spain, Poland, France, and all over the Holy Roman Empire. In fact, some of the folks there portraying Polish soldiers actually were from Western Europe.

Kris and I were at our Bavarian best, in our characters with our accents and willing to approach every person there. I made an effort to curtsy to everyone I knew was higher than me in station, and flirt with every soldier I might make money off of. We played our roles as Bavarian cooks, and had a lot of in with it.

We did not sped the whole time playing, we spent most of it in the kitchen making food because I was nervous going in and thought we’d be better off with something to occupy our time, so I volunteered to make lunch for everyone on Saturday and Sunday. Feeding a group of 40 with historical food was new, but my experience feeding Das Geld, and cooking at the museum paid off, we made a couple great meals and helped with the fancy Saturday dinner. It meant we had something to do where we had a small group of folks to work with, and we weren't just hanging out getting bored or tempted to slip out of character. I kind of missed that we could not watch the weapons stuff more, but having our tasks in the kitchen for the first year made the event safe and fun.

We even got to take part in a little scenario bit. A few of us women went outside of the fort to take a walk, we were "attacked" and robbed, so we had to scream and yell, run back into the fort and gather the soldiers to defend us. We screamed our heads off, ran around, and got the guys all riled up and ready to defend us. They had a mock battle, a little trial, all was forgiven, then we went back to the kitchen.

Line of women at muster. Photo by Abby Gale
The other scenarios included mustering in and presentation of arms, presentation of pay, meals, and games in the tavern in the evening. The "tavern" set-up was a bit odd, there were two females in a room across from the kitchen, which had tables, benches, and snack-type food. Although we kitchen folk sometimes interacted with the tavern folk, they were mostly separate, we worked during the day and they were busiest in the evenings.

I wish we had had more time. We got in late on Friday night and had to leave early on Sunday. It would have been even easier to have that historical feeling if I'd had a few moments to actually sit back and take look around instead of spending most of my time head down in my tasks.
Serving Lunch. Photo by Abby Gale

The weekend, for me ended up being a total ego boost. I was surrounded by people I had met once or twice, or had not met before, and they could not have known what to expect, I was told going in that the event was an immersive, in-timeperiod event, and so every single interaction I had was as close to period as I know how to get. Kris and I kept up our accents, talked about how things were in Bavaria, laughed and joked in timeless ways(women can joke about the length of men's spears in any time.) So many participants told us how impressed they were with our ability to interact "in character" all day long. I won't say it is easy, but at this point in my life I'm not sure I could be any other way. 

The weekend was totally worth the drive. It was amazing to spend time with folks who do the same century as we do. Since we don't do American history as our main, the moments when we can get together with 40 other people are so very rare. Even at the museum, I go home at the end of the day, so this was a chance to be in the awesome environment over night. I got to spend time with Kris who is an awesome individual, and I got to play in history!


  1. Sounds like a fantastic time!

    You mentioned that no one in the other bunk rooms hid their modern stuff. Was that allowed? I mean, our own guidelines indicate that whatever you choose to have in your tent is your business as long as we (nor the public) can see it. Also, did it in any way detract from your experience? It sounds like it didn't but I was wondering if you were a little bit disappointed when you discovered it?

  2. The public was not allowed upstairs so that was not a problem. I only snuck up to the other bunk rooms because we recieved a missive encouraging us to dress up our living spaces, so I brought out the religious paintings and the chamber pot among other stuff for ours and wanted to see what other people had done. In my quick glances it looked like other folks had tried, but the sneakers had slipped out and someone had forgotten to hide the gym bag when they'd all left in the morning. I think if there had been some sort of "inspection" or prize or something the rooms would have looked better, focus was just not placed on the private stuff.

  3. It helped that you were bunked with me & one of my personal goals for the event was to only bring things that I *could* keep out in view of the public. I even drove in my period clothes to eliminate the need to hide modern things. I like the idea of a prize or inspection though. What a great way to encourage keeping every bit of the space period correct!

    It's good to know that my oblivious comments about the men's spears didn't go to waste.

  4. Sounds like an amazing time.
    I enjoy immersion and wish I could do more.
    Thanks for a fine post.