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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