The day of my presentation I was so incredibly nervous! I had hard copies of my various notes, plus originals for the handout. I had electronic versions in my email and on my iPad, I even packed a shirt to change into so I would not have to wear my red uniform shirt during the talk. Of course when I got to work the person playing Mrs. Shapiro called out sick, so I had to scramble into my back-up clothes and spend the day being Mrs. Shapiro. Actually that was probably better, it meant I could stay in Mrs. Shapiro mode and only think about feeding the family, and Avrham at work, Mollie at school. Mrs. Shapiro did not give presentations to colleagues. But when the crowds died down in the afternoon I was again stuck in my own thoughts, getting more and more nervous. At the end of the day I practically ran out of Shapiro house to go get ready for my talk.
Since it was not scheduled too far in advance, and because my talk was advertised as mostly for role-players, I did not have too big a crowd. Still, enough people did show up, and everyone who did was very attentive. The folks in the education department had asked for an advance copy of the bibliography so they could order some of my recommendations for the little library, they ended up ordering a ton of books! It was awesome to see all my old friends (in book form) waiting for me to tell more folks about them.
I started by talking about how important it is that we never stop honing our skills as interpreters (costumed or uniformed.) That we need to keep learning and developing new skills no matter how long we have been at it. Then I segued into an activity to determine what some of those interpretation skills are. I got some resistance at the beginning of the activity, but most people seemed to get in to it, and everyone seemed to figure out what I was aiming for. It started with everyone writing down various types of skills from a couple of different types of occupations: historian, teacher, and actor. I asked them to write down skills that they might use as interpreters, to think of those things that the best of us do well, and attitudes we all strive for.
The next part I was up in front of the whiteboard, while the group shouted out various skills they had either written down or just though of. I filled up the entire board with my horrible handwriting, my audience only corrected my spelling twice. The point was not really to have everyone read and memorize the skills we put on the board, the point was to help my fellow interpreters recognize the diversity of skills one can draw on in our profession and help them recognize ways to keep learning. When someone seemed to have a little trouble articulating an idea they had I was often able to fill in with a vocabulary-type word to describe the things we all do, but never talk about. As I wrote down skills I pointed to the various publications where my audience could find out more information. Before we finished each section i made sure to go back to the list I had compiled ahead of time, there were only a few things in each section that no one had yet mentioned that I thought were important enough to add. For the most part, my fellow interpreters got the important skills all on their own.
Once the board was full, folks asked questions, of me and of each other. We had a heated discussion on "telling the truth" and what that meant as a role-player. I tried to not let one or two people dominate the discussion, but at the same time I certainly did not keep an iron grip on the lines of discussion.
The whole presentation plus discussion ran for just over an hour, and I got quite a few compliments when it was done. I did not get a lot of constructive criticism, my guess is that the workshop was so far outside everyone's experience of other workshops that they did not have a lot to compare it to. I did have one participant come up to me the day after and share one of her favorite Emily Dickinson poems, and that was incredibly special.
Now I want to give my presentation to more groups, see if I can inspire more people who do historical interpretation (in costume or otherwise, at a museum or on their own) to hone their skills and never stop learning.