Saturday, July 27, 2013

School for 1st Person Interpretation

The other day in Shapiro house I had a group of New York Jews visit. I could tell they were NYC Jews a little by  how they looked, more by how they sounded, and I knew for sure when one of them said: "My mother had a stove just like that in the Catskills." and another chimed in: "We had one like that in the Bronx!"

We had a very nice interaction, we talked about leaving Russia, about the community in Portsmouth. NH, about buying kosher meat. The part I want to share here was towards the end when one member of the group asked: "what acting school did you go to?"

If I had had the chance to answer I would have talked in character about the fact that back in Russia only the boys went to school. Instead one of her fellow visitors jumped in and said "she is in character, she can't tell you that!"

It is true I could not answer her question. If I could have had that conversation, if I was not in character when it was asked, the answer would have been: none. There is no school that teaches what I do. There are one or two books, but really, we all learn by watching others, and by doing.

I've talked to many others in the field, and had many conversations about the possibility of classes, info guides, magazines, anything to share our skills and expertise. But I'm not sure we've reached a critical mass yet.

Maybe some day.


  1. Do you think general improv classes are useful to interpreters? Obviously most scenes (in the class) would end up being contemporary, and they don't really address interacting with visitors who aren't exactly playing along - but for the general skill?

    1. Hi Cassidy,
      Thanks for your comment, yes I do think that general improv classes can be very helpful. Theatrical Improvisation encourages creativity, makes us feel less self-conscious, teaches focus sharing, and being positive. Plus there have been studies done that show that people who know how to improvise actually do have different brain wave patterns, I wrote about it a few months ago:


    2. Hello, Cassiday. As an actor who portrays historical characters and who has performed improv and taken Improv classes, it can be very helpful. At the least, it can reinforce what you already may do in assessing visitors/tourists and in focusing on what the visitor (or in the case of a Improv scene partner) says and reacting to it. A class can also help to make a person feel more comfortable and confident, because as already stated, interacting with the public is all Improv.

  2. As one who has taken various acting classes, studied for a short time at an esteemed NYC school, and plied her trade on stage and TV, in film and so on, I must say that my years portraying assorted characters at Conner Prairie (Indiana) made for the absolute BEST acting gig I've ever had. HUZZAH!