Wednesday, December 24, 2014

That random collection of digits

The average American does not know dates.

I was talking with a retired Literature professor about volunteering at the museum and learning how to hearth cook. I mentioned that we use recipes from the late 18th Century, and his response was to ask if we were making pemmican and other Native American meals. By 1770 (what I meant by the later 18th C.) there were very few Native Americans left in Downtown Portsmouth, there had been English settlers here for over 120 years.

The museum was hiring an outside group, dancers specifically, for some shows and the organizer was effusive about his wonderful costumes. First he said they were just like Currier and Ives, then he mentioned “A Christmas Carol” then went on to talk about “vintage dress”. I had to ask if he was talking 1840s when Currier and Ives started  and when a Christmas Carol was first printed, or 1900s which is when Currier and Ives ended and what is usually considered vintage. He had no idea. When I got to see his costumes they actually were pretty good renditions of the 1860s Currier & Ives prints, it was just the concept of dates and names for separate eras that he had no interest in.

I gave a tour of the museum to a kid just out of college where he had majored in history. I mentioned that Ichabod Goodwin was governor of the state just at the beginning of the Civil War, but that we show his house how it looked in 1870. The kid asked if it was a colonial house.

Maybe it is just the way that I use dates and events, names of time periods versus names of styles. I like to think I’m not a bad history educator. It does say to me that when introducing some to a historical concept, giving a date: as set of numbers strung together to indicate a time in history, or giving an era whether it is Colonial or Victorian can be totally ineffective as a method of grounding your audience.

Here is a challenge to you all: How can you give your audience an anchor from which to understand you without using dates or era name?
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Friday, December 19, 2014

Baby in Camp

Here is my annual Connecticut RenFaire post, only a few months late. I have been insanely busy over the past couple months. I don’t recommend having a baby, selling and buying a house, and managing 3 months of intense events at work while participating in reenactments every weekend. Now we’re a couple months later, this is what has stuck with me.

Every year that we’ve set up as Das Geld Fahnlein at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire has been an incredibly different experience. In 2009 we were just starting out: everyone had new outfits, we were teaching ourselves how to cook over the fire, and starting to gather the props and gear of a military camp. In 2010 I worked hard on cooking from historical recipes, and on how we spoke to and educated faire visitors. 2011 we got rid of a bunch of the camp items that had been “good enough” and I got rid of more plastic bins, instead storing our gear in baskets, chests and cloth bundles. That year we also got some new members who brought great energy to the group. In 2012 I was working as a role player at Strawbery Banke which meant less time at faire, and most of the other founding members took time off too, so the group was small and a little strange. It was the last year the faire was in Hebron, CT and a lot of our group was struggling with burn out and wondering if it was still fun. On a positive note it was the first year we had a baby in camp: Amanda and Tom brought their one-year-old, who proved just as popular with visitors as the dog and the cook fire. 2013 we were on a new site which was challenging but we were back on track: we laughed, learned, enjoyed each other and enjoyed history. I was feeling under the weather a lot during the run, turns out I was pregnant!

The challenge of this past year was welcoming the newest member of our family into the Fahnlein. Percy was 4 months old during CTRF, and we were all still learning how to be a family and participate in the things we love to do. Percy was totally adorable in his period clothes: he had all the outfits that Amanda had made for her daughter, plus another friend sewed him an outfit, which was good because I had no time to sew anything for him. We got our picture taken at lot. I also inevitably heard over and over: “that’s not a real baby” then got to listen to the squeals as Percy gurgled, waved his hands, snored or did something else that proved he was real, happy, and just doing his baby things. Percy made a lot of friends. There were faire folks outside our group that we had not interacted with that saw the baby then came back every day to visit, or Percy and I would leave camp to go around the faire and call on all the folks who thought interacting with a baby was pure joy.

Before the faire run I had hoped I would still be able to help with the cooking, monitor the weapons, attend the demos, maybe even march in the parade. I ended up doing none of those things. I had Percy adequately clothed for the weather, but at 4 months old he was still very vulnerable to the wind, bright sun, cold rain, all the things that nature throws at us during a New England fall. So he and I stayed in the big tent and talked to visitors from there. We nursed, napped, I sang him songs and made funny faces, we paced the rugs or lay on the bed. Meanwhile the rest of camp was busy at the cook fire, weapons display, medical demonstration and all the usual things. It was a bit isolating, being stuck in the tent, though people did come to visit me, and I passed the baby around in order to have a few minutes to tidy up, wash dishes,  eat some food. I had made a baby sling so I could wear him around while working, but the weather was just too variable for me to expose him to the elements for any length of time. I did get to interact with visitors when they came in to our tent: they would pet the dog and coo at the baby and I would try to impart a little history. Quite a few Sundays, Stephen told me to head home early.

Was our first camp experience with baby a success? Yes, I think it was. I just need to lower my expectations for myself while I make sure that Percy has a good time growing up.

Percy, Lilly, and I at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire. Photo by Amanda Sullivan

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Living History in Unlikely Places

One of the things I love to do with this blog is talk about the unlikely places I find living history. When I stumble upon them unexpectedly it is always a thrill. Last week my family went on vacation: Stephen, Percy and I went with my parents to Portland, Oregon. Since Stephen and my dad are both fans of beer, and Portland is well known for its small, specialized breweries, we spent most of our evening meals at pubs and breweries. I am not a fan of beer, but hearing the two of them go on and on about something they both enjoy was well worth it. I ate a lot of good soup. Our Wednesday night stop was to a brewery called Hair of the Dog. When we got there we found their normal offerings replaced, an author was signing his book, of historical brewing recipes! The list of what was on tap started with an offering created from an 1804 recipe, and continued on through the century ending with one from the 1930s.

While the guys oohed and ahhed about the changes to the recipe and flavors as the century progressed I was a bit sad that I really don’t like beer. I was still able to enjoy the fact that all these beer lovers were sipping a bit of history. They were participating in Living History, and making sure that the past was still relevant today. And I am always a fan of that.
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Monday, November 17, 2014

Bringing the streets to life

As Special Events Manager I get to make magic during all sorts of events. I think a large part of that magical atmosphere is created by people, specifically first-person role-players so I try to add as many into my events as possible. Even before I was hired to run SBM’s holiday event, Candlelight Stroll employed more role-players than the regular season, and more than the other events. We have 8 houses that are set up as our “Historic Houses” (i.e. furnished to a specific time period, telling a specific story, and not an exhibit or craft demonstration house) and during Stroll they all contain role-players. One house has only one person in costume, some of the other houses contain up to 8 people bringing holiday stories to life. Some of those folks are employed as role-players during the regular season, many of them are teenagers that participate in our Junior Role-player program, some we hire in specifically for the three weekends in December.

This year I’m hiring folks to perform a few roles inside the historic houses, and I’m also hiring folks to perform on the streets of our neighborhood to extend the atmosphere (and to entertain those people who are stuck waiting in lines.) I did a little of this last year, I hired two of my friends from the Renaissance Faire to interact on the streets and they did a great job. They’ve perfected their craft of interactive improvisational theatre over years of working Faires, and the two I picked are also history buffs. I got great feedback about those two, and permission to hire a bunch more. But I only know so many folks who are close enough to the coast of NH who would want to perform on the streets in December. I’m looking at possibly hiring people I have not worked with before which is exciting, but daunting too.
Junior Roleplayers head on to the grounds during Candlelight Stroll 2013

The challenge will be ensuring a certain level of quality among the role players when we bring on extra people who do not have all year to perfect their craft. Visitors will not be able to tell by looking who is a year-round role-player, who is a RenFaire performer, and who is an actor hired just for this event. I am planning to do a day of training to get a basic starting point for all the different costumed people, We’ll see how much it is possible to do in just one day.
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Not That Rich

I recently read a blog post by one of my favorite bloggers Kitty Calash in which she mentioned a conversation discussing if the rich folks living Providence, RI in the late 18th Century could afford curtains. I won’t wade in to that conversation, but it brought up a discussion I had last year with a roleplayer that I was training about the vagaries of defining a historical person as "rich". I had to explain that although the Goodwins might have been a little rich they really were not super rich. Today we can talk about the super-rich, the 1%, those that drive a Lexus versus a Toyota, versus a Honda, versus a Lamborghini. When we have conversations about those living a long time ago, subtleties like exactly how rich someone is can be lost.

Here on the grounds of Strawbery Banke we have a house we call the Governor’s Mansion. It is actually a very modest house. The family that lived there had five kids, two of which lived in the house as adults. So in the year 1870 there were three generations in the house: Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin, two grown daughters, at least two grandchildren (maybe three), plus four servants. By my count there are 4 small bedrooms on the second floor; the servants and children would be stuck in the third floor attic space. On days when everyone was home it would have been a very crowded house! So that means they must not have been very rich.

And yet … They took vacations and expensive train trips every summer. Mr. Goodwin’s investments did well enough that he could fund a campaign for Governor, and had enough clout to get all his banking friends to fund the first New Hampshire troops sent off to fight the Civil War. The females got their wardrobes from the dress makers in Boston and New York. They had four servants. So they were rich.

But of those servants, only one was male, and he was the coachman. They did not have a butler. Their servants were all younger (the oldest being 25) and mostly immigrants, so they were not the expensive class of servants. Mr. Goodwin did not own hotels, plantations, or factories (other folks in town did,) but he did own shares in railroads and bridges. So not that rich.

I ended up explaining it to my trainee this way: if the Goodwins lived today, they could not afford their own private jet, but would fly first class. Yes they had money, but they were not part of the 1%. See there were gradations back then too.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fall Museum Plans

Even though it is still summer by most American calendars, fall and winter planning are well underway at Strawbery Banke. The two events that started off my career as Manager of Special Events are coming around again and I am super excited to add a little of my own creativity into them this year.

Ghosts on the Banke: last year I had only just started less than a month before our Halloween event, so mostly I was carrying out the vision of the last person in my position. "Ghosts" is a safe trick-or-treat that last for two hours per evening on Friday and Saturday the weekend before Halloween. It is a small budget event, and most of that budget is spent on candy so over the years it has gotten away from being a history event, though it is still about community. This year I'm going to try to bring a little history back, by enlisting the help of local theater groups: improv troupes, high school clubs, anyone I can find, to tell "ghost stories" or historical themed skits and scenes on the grounds during the event. I'm going to have to put in some miles tracking down groups to participate  but hopefully this will add a new level of community involvement, more history, and lot more life to the event.

Our holiday event: Candlelight Stroll is also on my mind. To this one I need to add more outdoor activity. This is not that easy to do in December in New England, but that is what I am hoping to do. I am trying to increase the number of caroling groups, or at least spread them out more evenly over the three weekends; I am hoping to work with local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troupes to get them involved, and I have been given the okay to hire more costumed role players!

The last one is the one closest to my heart, I've done so much historical interpretation, acting, role playing, whatever you want to call it, myself. I think it is a great way to bring history to life, and Renaissance Faires have taught me that it is also a great way to keep a crowd entertained. Since we have houses ranging in date from 1690 to 1950 I am looking forward to hiring people to portray all sorts of townsfolk from all sorts of eras. I've already written up the casting call even though I will not put it out until September. The next step as far as putting more costumed role players on site is to start in on the research, also tons of fun, and something I have missed doing! Read this entry on entry page

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Percy's first LH Event

Percival Shellenbean

Well it has been a busy spring and summer for us here. In mid-June baby Percival was born! We are both healthy and happy. I’m getting used to being parent to an infant, he is learning important stuff like digesting milk, and waving his arms and legs.

Percy in his antique pram, Lilly looking on.
We have not done much history stuff this year, we attended a really fun immersive event in April, and then visited the Connecticut Renaissance Faire’s Robin Hood show to attend a friend’s wedding. The visit to the faire was two weeks before the baby was due, and since then we’ve stuck pretty close to home. Now that he is closer to two months I’ve gone back to work. I have big plans for Halloween and Christmas, but I’ll share those later. We also took Percy to his first history event this past weekend. Well, he came to my museum on July 4th, when he was two weeks old, but we were just there as visitors, modern clothes, stroller, all that.

This past Sunday we got all dolled up and went to a Roaring Twenties lawn party hosted by Boston Swing Central, held at the amazingly lavish Crane Estate at Castle Hill. I heard about the event last year through some blogs I read, but had forgotten about it until the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers’ newsletter arrived in my inbox. I did not get the news letter in enough time for the initial date, but the event was postponed due to rain which gave us one week to prepare. I was so desperate to get dressed up and get out of the house that I was determined to go even though we did not have proper attire, nor the energy to make up the clothes etc.. I did manage to convince our friends to come out with us with their cutie 2 year old daughter. They pulled stuff out of their closets, I scoured TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, Stephen wore his lovely tailored suit, and Percy wore an actual vintage piece, sewn for Stephen’s grandmother when she was a baby. My mother pulled the vintage pram out of the attic that she used to push me in when I was a baby, and we bought picnic stuff on the way out of town.
The Shellenbeans, photo by Amanda Sullivan

The weather was fine, the band was amazing, the dancers looked fabulous, and the site was extravagant. There were some impressive antique cars, and some of the vintage shops from Boston had come out with their wares. I did not do any dancing myself but it was fun to sit on the blanket, eat cucumber sandwiches, and watch the well dressed people go by. The crowd was so different from any of the other events we attend. There were a lot of folks in their mid-twenties to early thirties looking spiffy in their vintage duds. Then there were the slightly older couples who were obviously there to dance. Generally the audience felt more hipster and less nerdy than the Renaissance faire crowd, though he clothing level was about that you might find at a Renaissance Faire: some really awesome, most folks at least trying, way too many sneakers. There were a few kids in attendance, but only a few. The crowd was also very different from those at battle reenactments: much younger, much more relaxed and fairly evenly divided between men and women. Surprisingly, it was also a different crowd from either the SCA dance events we attend, or the Colonial and Civil War dances: those tend to be much much smaller, a little more welcoming to newcomers, and fairly heavily clothing centered. All in all, attending this event made me feel really lucky to live in an area where I can participate in such an amazing variety of Living History events.
The Sullivan family, photo by Alena Shellenbean

Percy was such a good baby. He was fine in the car until we were almost there, then he submitted to the funny dress and the crocheted cap once he was in a clean diaper. He enjoyed bouncing along the in the old pram, and when we got to our picnic spot he nursed, lay on the blanket for a while, then fell asleep and went back in the pram. We got a ton of compliments on our own antique transportation, and folks adored Percy in his finery. We were only able to stay out for a few hours, none of us are sleeping through the night, but it was so worth it.

Now we’ve got to get back into the sewing room and get ready for the fall! Read this entry on entry page

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Looking at Old Houses

Oh you poor neglected readers! I'm so sorry I have not updated in so long. Many life changes happening here that have left me exhausted most of the time. Stephen and I are a month and a half away from having a baby! Inviting Alysa into our life was a great experience, so now that we've had a teenager we're going back and staring from the beginning. We can't wait to bring another little reenactor into the world.

As if adding to the family was not crazy enough, we're also moving, Right now my commute to work is an hour and twenty minutes, one-way. So I spend almost 3 hours in the car every day driving to and from work. That is not going to be okay once I'm a new mom, so we're selling our current house and looking to buy closer to the museum. Right now I'm fairly convinced that selling a house is more stressful than being pregnant, though it could be just that the house deadlines are approaching much more rapidly, and my pregnancy has been very uncomplicated so far.

I do intend to write up a blog post about the latest reenactment I attended, which will basically be my last until after the baby is born (none of my reenacting clothes fit me, and as I mentioned, I'm constantly exhausted.) Today I thought I'd write about house hunting. Since Stephen and I love history, and there are a ton of historical houses available in New Hampshire, many folks have asked if we're looking to purchase a historical house. The answer is a tentative maybe.

I grew up in a house built in 1795 so I know the pitfalls very well: they are drafty and hard to heat, they are always dusty and for those with allergies or asthma (Like Stephen and myself) they can be a health problem. They require constant maintenance since some part of the structure is always getting old and in need of replacement. As a historian I also know the value of old houses: they tell the stories of their community, you can trace the different ages they have witnessed on the walls and floors. Also, they are probably going to last for at least another 200 years if not more, as long as someone who loves them treats them well.

When doing our initial online house searches we are much more likely to bypass a house built in the 1980s (I don't like split-levels and we both hate wall-to-wall carpeting) and look more seriously at a house built in 1890. Go back much further (there was one house in our price range listed as built in 1760) and I get worried, unless it has been well cared for, and the insulation has been updated, that house could be a nightmare to look after. Our focus is much taken up with work, reenacting, and soon to be parenthood, we are looking for a home, not another project.

But I find old houses so hard to resist! This past weekend a central chimney cape with a lovely barn caught my fancy, and I am totally in love. The kitchen is horrible, the whole thing needs work, and the stairs are an accident waiting to happen, but the house is nestled right into the land, it looked so welcoming, and had a lot of great stories to tell. I can imagine all our books feeling right at home in those rooms, and listening to the sounds of the house at night. I can picture the gardens and the rope swings, the living room and the sewing room, Stephen's workshop.

Well we've only just started looking, I'm hoping there will be other houses out there, ones that will require less work, but maybe still have a hint of history about them.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Vacation for my Role-Playing Soul

Stephen and I spent this past weekend down in Williamsburg, VA at a retreat for role-players sponsored by the Association of Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums. The FPIPN conference runs every-other year, Stephen and I have attended the past three. They have each been very different, but good and are a great chance to re-charge, and renew our energy.

This year we presented two talks: one we entitled “Get Real” about connecting our audiences to the past by portraying real people: using the emotions, conflicts, life issues that all humans face. The other talk was a long session (two hours) where Stephen and I did a version of the LH Triangle I presented at Strawbery Banke last fall.  Unfortunately doing so many presentations of our own meant that we missed out on attending many other people’s presentations, ah well.  Our talks went over fairly well, and most excitingly, there were two folks there who asked if we go out and do trainings at other museums. The answer is most definitely yes!

One of the joys of this year’s conference was that it took place a little later in the year, and was held in a location far enough south, to be a nice break from the winter. We left NH covered in 2 feet of snow, and found Virginia to be full of songbirds, and spring shoots, 20 degrees warmer, and pleasant enough to sit outside to eat our lunches. We took afternoon walks, Stephen had a morning run, we left our coats in the car and just walked around in sweaters. Turns out I really needed a couple of days in the sun.

Even better than the break from the weather, was the company. The population of people as obsessed with the highest level of Living History Interpretation as me is very small. It was wonderful to spend a weekend with other folks who worry about how to present prejudices of the past (it would be false to leave them out, but alienating a visitor can shut down learning) and how to get beyond our own modern mind-set to give a truer impression of life in the past. We got to tell some of our funny stories, and hear the funny stories of other folks. I was a grumpy-puss at the fancy dinner on Saturday night, but I did enjoy listening to other people’s conversations. There was also a great moment where one of the participants got up and sang a tavern song with a chorus that he taught us all (actually Stephen and I knew that one already) and inspired other people to get up and sing. I sang a bit of a Yiddish tune since I was presenting Mrs. Shapiro and Stephen sang Finnegan’s Wake since he was there as George Rose.

I always wish these things could be twice as long. So that we could talk to more of the participants, attend more of the talks, see more of each other’s work. We also did not get a chance to visit Colonial Williamsburg during open hours. We were in CW’s training facility, but on Saturday we did not get out until most of the museum buildings were closed, and on Sunday Stephen had a flight to catch. Now I guess we have an excuse to go back.

What a nice re-charge.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Not Universally Accessible

We just got some feedback on the Christmas program here at the museum, it is feedback that I have heard before, on an issue that I have struggled with for many years: universal access for those of all levels of mobility. As a historic site, one must travel the roads and paths to get to the historic buildings, all of which are entered by going up stairs. We have retro-fitted some buildings with ramps, but entrances are not the only problems: getting around inside the buildings can be tough, and just getting to the buildings from the visitor center can be a challenge.

The busiest day of this year’s Christmas program was also the most problematic in terms of visitors navigating our site. The weekend before we had received a foot and a half of snow, then on Tuesday we got another 8 inches. All that had been cleared off the paths, but Friday and Saturday were warm and the light mist had been melting the snow all day. Since it was fairly cold, the ground was mostly frozen, forcing the snow melt on to our nicely shoveled paths and either re-freezing in to ice slicks, or mixing with just enough thawed ground to cause massive mud puddles. The grounds were totally a mess. I wore my rubber boots and muddled through, but those visitors who had dressed up in fancy shoes, or had mobility issues were having trouble on the grounds.

What could we do about this particular situation? We were certainly salting and sanding the icy patches, pushing back the snow, but even with a dedicated grounds crew there was not a lot we could do about the mud puddles. The water was not being absorbed into the frozen ground, and in order to soak up all that water we would have needed to invest in a couple tons of sand or gravel, or possibly several industrial vacuum cleaners. Do they make vacuum cleaners that suck up mud puddles?

So short term we could not do anything about the rough walking conditions, but that does not mean we can not improve for the future. So what are some of the long term solutions? The easiest and most cost effective solution to weather conditions on roads is to pave them: wooden walkways, cobblestones, concrete, asphalt. All of these would significantly reduce the mobility issues of our modern visitors. However, we are a historic site and none of those methods of paving can be documented for the time when most of our houses were built, which is the late 1700s early 1800s. At that time the roads were dirt, so that is what we have: dirt. By having piles of snow and mud puddles in December we are giving visitors a taste of winter in times past, and all the limits that go with it.

So yes, a number of elderly visitors and those with mobility issues do have trouble navigating our grounds in bad weather, even if nothing is falling from the sky at the moment that they come through. From a modern perspective that is totally unfair. I think universal access is an incredibly worthy goal and I do try, in my own little way, to work towards universal access for people of all abilities. But I am also a historian and can tell you, folks with disabilities did not really get to enjoy the “good old days.” Aside from the stigma a differently-abled person had to endure, in the time before electricity there were no elevators, no electric wheel chairs; heck, all those muddy paths were dark and even more treacherous before the cheap modern light bulb. What happened when older folks were no longer able to walk all that well? They certainly did not expect to go out with the grandkids to a nine-acre site in the middle of the winter and expect to walk around for several hours. But just because they were excluded in the past does not give us permission to exclude people today. BUT we don’t want to give up on presenting history, that is what we do!

I know there are people out there in the museum world doing wonderful work on universal access, but I have found very little of it on historic settings. If a reader has any insight, please share. I’d love to put more brains to work on this.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: Telling History

Telling History: a manual for Performers and Presenters of First-Person Narratives by Joyce M. Thierer was published just a few short years ago in 2010. I did not hear about it when it came out, I did not hear about it from any museum conferences or mailing lists. I located it during a Google Books search. Since I DO first-person interpretation, and I'm fairy well connected to the pseudo-community of Living History, I was surprised I had not heard of a new book.

Telling History is very specific, it is for those that do big-audience performances, 30 - 40 minute monologues on a stage followed by question sessions at the end. I mostly do interactions in-setting of limited duration, but I'm willing to mine any resource for useful skills and info.

Thierer starts by writing an introduction to the genre, then in her first chapter talks about other types of living history and why they are inferior. She uses generalities, and worst-cases for her opinions, then writes about what she calls "Historical Performance" by calling up its best practices. A fairly messy way to justify your book. Starting with chapter 2 Thierer starts in on the "how to" stuff, and immediately references a PDF document online, on her website. She does not describe the document but continually references it for the next few chapters, practically forcing me to put down the book, wait until I had access to the Internet and enter her URL. Then the URL didn't work. Actually she had a number of different URLs, none of the ones I tried worked. The book does have appendices, I don't understand why the worksheets could not be included in the appendix, with the amount they were referenced.

All that being said, I do still think the book is worth reading. Thierer's guidance on how to pick a person to portray and how to do historical research would be very useful for those just starting out. I found her script writing chapter very informative, and made me think I could actually write my own script to present an interesting historical program. I am not as big a fan of the sit-for-40-minutes sort of program, but if someone manages to follow all of Thierer's best practices, I bet the performance would be pretty good.

I found her chapter on business to be the hardest to get through. It was long, and not as good as a book on the subject of starting a business. Yes, historical theater is unique, I wish she had concentrated on just those parts that were unique. The following chapter, written for museums and other institutions, was much shorter, and crammed full of useful information for the institution and those that want to be hired. Thierer's list of questions that every institution should ask before hiring a performer (and that every performer should be able to answer) is challenging, geared towards those who do a lot of scholarship, and are really professional. It is an aspirational list for those of us not employed as college professors.

Her final chapter is the most ambitious, but possibly the most inspiring. She writes about her dreams for historical theater and includes reaching wider audiences, and a professional organization that develops standards and provides training. These have been goals of mine at some point or another, though at this point I have found enough small groups or institutions doing these things that it is now my goal to organize the groups, or at least make sure people know they exist.

She sticks to basically just two example performances that she keeps returning to: her own experiences playing Calamity Jane, and her partner's experiences as Amelia Earhart. This allows for continuity, but got a bit boring after a while. She was very focused on American History, and specifically mid-west history, but this is what she knows. Those of us who have different geographic or temporal focus can still use a lot of what she presents, just know that the bits on costuming, picking themes, identifying research material can vary widely from her examples.

Thierer's book is well written. It is easy to read just a chapter at a time, but if you stop in the middle of a chapter be prepared to go back and at least skim when you pick it back up. Her book is ambitious and assumes some pretty high standards. These are both good things.

Anyone involved in Living History who is looking to find the book that best describes their own experiences is in for a long search. I have become a gleaner of advice and information, picking up bits from all the diverse books out there. Though Thierer's book is very specifically for those doing performance monologues, there is plenty to be gleaned for those of us who do other sorts of Living History. Read this entry on entry page

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 - Or at least the beginning of it

I seem to have lost my Thanksgiving post. I'll hopefully find it soon, and put it up before the end of this month. That is not too late, right?

I also have some more thoughts on the Candlelight Stroll program I would like to share. Plus my thoughts on the historical sites visited over Christmas, that should not be too much to get done soon, hopefully.

What I do have to share at the moment is my historical schedule for the next few months. These next few months used to be the quiet months where we'd jump on almost any excuse to get in garb and out of the house. Now I think our schedule is full:

Jan 10: 12th Night Ball in Sudbury, MA
Jan 25: Market Day at Birka in Nashua, NH
Jan 31 - Feb 2: Military History Fest in Chicago, IL
Feb 8: New England Reenactor's Fair in Sturbridge, MA
Feb 22 - 23: First-Person Interpreters Conference in Williamsburg, VA
March is empty right now, but...
April 11 - 13: Early Modern Muster of Arms in Fort Wayne, IN
April 25 - 26: Plymouth State Medieval Forum, Plymouth, NH

Late spring, early summer is being left relatively empty, but I'm sure it will fill up fast!

That is just the stuff outside of the museum. I think that is plenty for now, but if anyone knows of something going on in March, let me know!

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