Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Good First Impression

I’ve brought this up before, but I’ve been thinking about it again. Upon meeting someone we only get a short time to make a first impression. As someone educating about a different time and place the first impression is doubly important. Here are the things that I consider important in a LH introduction:
1.    Something about the time period you are representing
2.    Something about the person you are portraying
3.    Something to engage your audience
I like to try to do all that in just a few short sentences.

When using first-person interpretation we have to be clever to get the most important information out there since we are talking from the long-ago, to an audience of modern individuals. It is a challenge, but a good one. Even when using third-person it is important to avoid giving just a name and a date. Most people don’t have the historical knowledge to put dates into any kind of context. Event smart people who should know dates often don’t. and names have a fairly low educational factor.

So what does a good introduction sound like? Stephen delivered one of my favorites here at the museum with his 1870s coachman character, it went something like:
“Welcome to the kitchen! I hope you don't mind if I don't stand, Mr. Goodwin gave us the evening off. We’re having a bit of a party to celebrate Christmas eve, and to celebrate that we’re one year further away from that dreadful war.”

I love this intro because although in this particular iteration the character is unnamed and the date is not given, there is so much an audience member can get from the intro:
1.    The speaker is an employee, and a fairly formal one (usually they stand when a guest arrives)
2.    He has identified the place: the kitchen of the home owned by Mr. Goodwin
3.    The day itself is something special: a party of Christmas eve, and at the end of a war.
4.    Because he does not specify the war, he has left an opening for his audience to ask. Though they could ask any number of questions based on his statement, the one hanging in the room is: “what war is that?” which can lead to quite a good discussion about the era, about the character, about the audience member’s own experience of war.
"George Rose" chats with a visitor in the kitchen at Goodwin House
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Getting Restless

Things are gearing up here for opening day at the museum. The seasonal staff have been in training all week, getting reacquainted with us full-timers, learning about the new programs, and introducing new staff members. The costumes are coming back out, the cook stoves are being fired up, the houses have been aired out and dusted off. I am so jealous of those who are stepping back into the shoes, cracking open the cookbooks, and greeting the houses once again.
I love my job, it is so much fun to bring special days to the museum; but I miss actually acting out the daily tasks, and portraying the fabulous women of this neighborhood. I did get into costume last weekend at a very cool reenactment, but it has only slightly diminished the pangs as I see the aprons and skirts go whisking by.

I think I need to plan a tea party for May, so I can get dressed up. The renfaires seem very far away.

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