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hanktrent
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« on: November 12, 2011, 02:23:02 AM »

Was going to post this in the other thread, but realized I'd be highjacking it, so decided to separate it out.

Admittedly, because it's an unpaid hobby, I like to hang around people who are most appreciative of living history. After a few sentences, or even just from body language, one can pretty well separate out those who are thinking, "This is so cool!" from those who are thinking, "stupid! boring!"

But at the average reenactment, ironically enough, it seems that almost all of them are members of the public. When they all leave, that's when I run into the exhausting boredom and, worse yet, the pressure from fellow reenactors who think that I owe them something.

What Veronica Carey describes is pretty typical:

When I have visited a reenactment or 2 in the past, not dressed out, I have always thought it incredibly rude when costumed participants ignored me while they chatted with other costumed participants about 20th or 21st cent. matters--their boyfriends, kids behavior, shopping at Target, politics, whatever.  If they are there doing their 19th c. activity (cooking, mending, etc) I assume they are available for reasonable conversation or at least a smile and "Hello".

Now imagine you're in costume. Nothing changes. If anything, it's worse. Those who are open to interacting with the public see that you're a fellow reenactor and assume you're not interested in living history, so instead of sharing their impression, they too start chatting about 20 or 21st century matters as if we weren't even at a reenactment. I'm not expecting a beginner-level high-energy presentation, I'm just hoping to share an average, normal, slice of 19th century life on a more subtle level, because, well, "that is so cool!" and it's why I came.

But instead, typically, they act as if I owe them something. I'm supposed to quit having fun, stop the living history, and talk about the boring things they want to talk about. If I don't, it's pretty clear that I'm not paying what I owe them, in order to attend.

Without traveling half way across the country for the very few events that are different, how does one avoid that?

Or is it a real, unavoidable debt, and just the price one has to pay to attend an average reenactment, take it or leave it?

I'm pretty sure the answer is the latter, but I'd love to figure out how to attend more events closer to home and have fun, without spending most of the event paying my debt.  Sad

Hank Trent
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Marta Vincent
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« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2011, 07:41:32 AM »

About the only thing I can suggest (and we're trying to do this locally) is to connect with other 'like-minded' reenactors, arrange a meet point at an event, congregate there and pursue your 19th century life within the 2ist century turmoil surrounding you.

So far this has been primarily women; not because men are excluded, but because most men are not portraying civilians.  It is a place when people can sit together, do period craft/handwork projects, practice first person with the public and each other, collectively corral small children, etc.

Elaine Masciale and Mary Gutzke are members here and by starting this, we've also been able to meet Michelle & Brooke Whitaker and their younger sister, and another young woman member her (Please forgive my lack of name memory  Undecided) at the Dollinger Farm mainstream event in October in Northern, IL. 
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Elaine Kessinger
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« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2011, 09:25:01 AM »

I ran into an issue that I think applies.

It came to a head with the servant issue. We had only two of them to service a plantation house hostessing a house-party of 16 people plus a few soldiers who wandered by to lend color. One "servant" was only just returning to physical ability to handle serving duties after major surgery... and then there was me.

Now... this was not enough servants to pull this event off correctly... and most of the participants were both unfamiliar with how to interact with servants and reluctant to treat me as a servant of the era because they felt sorry for all the work I was having to do.

I can't count the number of times I had to pull out of first person and say to fellow participants, "You came for the period experience of a plantation house-party. Being served is part of that experience for the role you have chosen. I, too, came to experience a house-party... only I choose a different role.  The more you treat me as a servant, the "better" experience I have; just as the more I serve you, the better experience you have."

I was well aware of the work involved. I was aware of the isolation of interaction being limited to specific tasks. I was well aware that other participants should ignore me and be rude to me.

...but they didn't. They couldn't get past their friend, Elaine, doing "all that work, all by herself."

Now, for next year, we can try to recruit more servant volunteers... and we can try to practice interactions between servants and the serviced... but until one can get past the "friend" to the friend's persona... it's a sticky wicket.
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Maggie Koenig
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« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2011, 09:39:41 AM »

Elaine,
  I too have done a lot of servants portrayals in my reenacting time and I've also found it difficult for people to treat me as a servant.  I did find it a lot easier when I started doing nothing but serving class at events and always "worked" for the same few people.  Maybe next year I'll be able to get down and give you a hand :-)  I can do anything from lady's maid work to scullery work.  However, please don't ask me to cook.....it will end badly.....
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Maggie Koenig
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« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2011, 09:43:23 AM »

However, please don't ask me to cook.....it will end badly.....

Actually, that could be fun. Someone could rant over your horrible cooking skills. Just stick to one dish so people still eat.  Wink
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Elaine Kessinger
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« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2011, 11:50:32 AM »

Were my cooking options limited to wood-stove, camp-fire, and hearth.... I'd be right along with you in saying "I don't know nothing 'bout cooking no dinners." 
With the gas stove, electric oven, and microwave at this event I was able to warm up pot luck contributions for a semi-formal dinner and two luncheons. (It was held at a B&B, and the regular modern staff handled breakfast for us.) (...and several ladies dropped first person for a bit in the kitchen to help and the passing soldiers did scullery duty, so I wasn't totally alone in this huge job) Did the modern kitchen break my period moment? yeah. Was there anything I could reasonably do about it? not without adding more drama than the event really called for. ...and it allowed me to be that cook they needed.

As I said, the best we can do is practice the respective roles until we become more comfortable with the concepts. This can be applied to any attitude concept in historical re-enacting that we aren't quite comfortable with yet. Servants, Slaves, Chauvanism, Dependance...

To actually tie it in with the wording of this thread... I think we owe it to our fellow re-enactors to make an effort to adhere to first person immersion when that is the stated expectation of the event. We owe it to our fellow re-enactors to keep as much modern intrusions, both physical and mental, out of sight as possible otherwise. We owe it to ourselves and fellow re-enactors to continue to learn, research, and practice the skills and concepts that will make us come that much closer to emulating the O.C. We owe it to our fellow re-enactors to show graciousness and respect to the various approaches to The Hobby and the good attitude of the beginners.

Do I succeed at this at all times? Sadly, nope... but I do try very hard.
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Elisabeth M
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« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2011, 01:08:58 PM »

Quote
I was well aware of the work involved. I was aware of the isolation of interaction being limited to specific tasks. I was well aware that other participants should ignore me and be rude to me.

...but they didn't. They couldn't get past their friend, Elaine, doing "all that work, all by herself."

Now, for next year, we can try to recruit more servant volunteers... and we can try to practice interactions between servants and the serviced... but until one can get past the "friend" to the friend's persona... it's a sticky wicket.

I love doing servant work in the kitchen. I work backstage in the theatre department at my school, and doing that sort of stuff is really, really fun. I dress people, bring them food, tie their shoes, clean their clothes. It's AWESOME.

When doing it at reenactments it's the same - I do really enjoy it. And I agree, there are issues with people not getting past the fact that you are a servant. I also ran into issues of people forgetting that you're not a servant *after* the event. For those of you lucky enough to play the upper class every time (not that I don't enjoy servanthood!) remember to post event, out of character, thank those who played background roles. For most of us, that's what makes servanthood worth it. =)

Just don't break the period moment!
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Maggie Koenig
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« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2011, 04:12:06 PM »

I work backstage in the theatre department at my school, and doing that sort of stuff is really, really fun. I dress people, bring them food, tie their shoes, clean their clothes. It's AWESOME.


I hope they aren't wearing their costumes when you feed them!!!  That was a huge huge "NO NO" for the actors that were trained at my school.  Their costume had to be off before they could eat or drink anything but water or riccola throat drops.  There was no food allowed in the dressing rooms either at any time before or after a show, they had to sit in the green room to eat it....in their underwear or with any luck a robe. 

Sorry for the hijack.....
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Maggie Koenig
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« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2011, 07:18:09 PM »

"No eating/drinking/smoking in costume" is such a standard rule in the theatre world that Russian and Ukrainian ballet dancers I was tour wardrobe manager for would don robes over their costumes before going to smoke like chimneys.

They also are the ones who got into my stash of stain removing vodka... and when they found out how upset I got, presented my with a bottle of vodka... that they had brought with them "from home."

ah.. heigh ho the glamorous life!  :-p

now really... back on topic...  Cool
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Elisabeth M
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« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2011, 12:51:17 AM »

Quote
I hope they aren't wearing their costumes when you feed them!!!  That was a huge huge "NO NO" for the actors that were trained at my school.  Their costume had to be off before they could eat or drink anything but water or riccola throat drops.  There was no food allowed in the dressing rooms either at any time before or after a show, they had to sit in the green room to eat it....in their underwear or with any luck a robe. 

Sorry for the hijack.....

Don't worry. The only time they EVER eat near or in their costumes is when I am looking at them and they really need food - those with blood sugar issues. OR if I'm feeding them....sour gummy worms. Yeah. We're addicted.

We don't have a green room separate from the dressing room, so the rules are a bit lax. (Believe me, having just come back from a show, I feel the lack of room  DEARLY.)

Oh the glamorous life . . . today I smeared mud all over my face for a makeup test, got dressed in a top hat and suit coat to go on stage for the show, wrapped an actresses ankle and carried her around back stage, fixed a million little things, busted open my knuckles trying to fix my ironing board, which is stuck open, and many, many more things.
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MrsPeebles
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« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2011, 10:18:27 AM »

From Mr. Trent's previous message...........
"But at the average reenactment, ironically enough, it seems that almost all of them are members of the public. When they all leave, that's when I run into the exhausting boredom and, worse yet, the pressure from fellow reenactors who think that I owe them something.
Now imagine you're in costume. Nothing changes. If anything, it's worse. Those who are open to interacting with the public see that you're a fellow reenactor and assume you're not interested in living history, so instead of sharing their impression, they too start chatting about 20 or 21st century matters as if we weren't even at a reenactment. I'm not expecting a beginner-level high-energy presentation, I'm just hoping to share an average, normal, slice of 19th century life on a more subtle level, because, well, "that is so cool!" and it's why I came. Or is it a real, unavoidable debt, and just the price one has to pay to attend an average reenactment, take it or leave it?"



Mr. Trent,
Again, as always, I enjoy yours, and your wife's posts regarding the LH hobby. I can easily relate to some of the things that you've said. Sometimes I notice that there are some people who do a fabulous job of creating their clothing or personal gear, yet have great difficulty with the interpretation or even more so, simple conversation. They talk about their modern lives and expect replies in the same vein, but totally forget why we are there, to step back in time and discuss the 19th Century. I doubt that there is little that you can do about it, except to remind folks what year it is, or simply state right at the start, the get-go of the event, we mustn't break character.

People want the personal response, to catch up on modern lives, especially when they see their friends so seldom, but you are correct when you state that it can spoil an event when folks forget why we are there and hope to find that bit of magic that makes the event special. I come home thrilled when I get a few days/night of never leaving my 19thC persona. After the event closes on Sunday, I would chat about my over-all impression, the delight that I had, and ask about personal modern family matters, and my friends do the same.

I think the thing that we owe other reenactors is to be the best at our craft, to read well and research and know what we say is factual and the things that we have no knowledge of is freely admitted openly. I don't know everything, no one can, so why should it be a surprise when I say (in character) "I never knew that, what paper was that in, or did you hear that news over the telegraph?" Everything in life is taught to us by someone else so why should it come as any surprise to anyone that every new event is a learning experience and has something fresh to offer us.

Perhaps if I understand your premise, like you, I love to remain in character all weekend. I don't want to break character and relish the best part of the event after the public leaves and can have long conversations about period literature, politics, religion, and home life. For instance, I enjoy discussing those folks who ran in politics and lost because their running mate was far from adapted to public life, how one serves their religion and how the country is slipping into moral decay, how to clean and dress a sweet young veal calf &c. And if you're wondering, I don't do the butchering in the house, my sons do this, but I have heard the principles of what is kept and what is tossed. My rambling point is that anyone in this LH hobby must have a wide range of topics to discuss. You don't have to invest in an expense education, you simply need to know what not only interest you, but can touch on topics that might interest others, even if you can only add a sentence or two.

To your above comments, I dislike the word "kewl" and cringe any time I hear it. I used to correct my children not to say that word, nor the word "awesome." One thing that does get me in a twist is when the public leaves and other LH folks feel they have the right to comment about my personal items. For instance, I use my own antique china and silver, wear family jewelry, and even carry original books and use an ivory crochet hook. If some LH person comes up to me and says, "you shouldn't use that dish, book, hook, or earrings" I simply cannot fathom what right they have to say such things. If I use these same dishes and silver daily on my home table, why should they consider that their business? Same with the jewelry I wear daily, or the books that I buy AND read, or the antique ivory crochet hook that I use all the time at home. Must people think that everyone is careless? If I use these things in my daily life, then perhaps I might have learned how to respect, and take care of my own property. The fact that these items are historically correct is not important to some folks, they feel they must comment and judge. It's almost the reverse of someone who does a lousy job and brings a plastic melmac dish from Walmart as though that is acceptable yet my original china is wrong?

Just a moment ago I had to think of what pieces of furniture I own that are 20th, century, and only one thing is 21st century in this house, and that is my TV set! The ugly red rocket lounger of my husband's is from the 20th century, and a kitchen table that he made. All other things in my house are considerably older so generally when folks see me at events, they seldom question the stuff that I take out simply because my whole entire life is OLD. If you have something that you treasure, certainly don't risk that you will loose it or break it, but if it is something that you casually use daily, then why should others get into a twist about your personal business?

I'm sorry for the wrong turn there, but shall attempt to understand your comments about fellow reenactors who owe you something. First off, I'd say again, the only thing we owe our fellow reenactors is to be well read, research, present the best possible impression that we can afford, and treat all of the LH participants with respect and kindness. Certainly we could touch on this subject much more, but I hesitate to do so as I have some confusion about your point of debt. I would hope that the other LH participants would treat me as I would wish to be treated, such as; being well prepared, remaining in character throughout, amiable civility, and a generous heart.

Mr. Trent, it is unfortunate that my poverty and bad luck prevents me from joining you and Mrs. T. at other events, but the feelings and frustrations that you express are certainly universal among LH sites. No matter, keep your thoughts positive and enjoy what you have and remember that each new event presents a fresh opportunity of history. Fortunately for both of us, Mrs. Clark has created this forum where we can share our ideas and find nuggets of information that help us to continue to grow and contribute in our favorite history hobby.
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2011, 03:10:11 PM »

Hank, that's a great question, and I know it's one that many of us have struggled over for a LONG time.

In my less charitable moments, the down-time modern stuff annoys me a lot, as it makes it harder for ME to get to those magic moment spots.

Let's go hypothetically here: say that I am a reenactor who doesn't really care to stay 100% in my impression after hours. I'd like to chat with friends, sit around the fire and swap stories, etc. Would it REALLY be that much trouble to use impression names when chatting, to swap historical stories around the fire, sing historical songs, keep eating the same foods, etc? Is it REALLY that tough to not mention modern things, even if we're not in full impression mode?

My thought is: no, it's not that hard... and it would be a HUGE service to those who want to be in an impression for the full event. I like the solution of a modern "de-briefing" get-together after the end of the event (I need the time before the event to get my head wrapped around my impression details, and tons of chatter in modern life would be a hindrance, personally).

Treating others with respect and kindness would, logically, include taking the minimal efforts needed to leave "shop talk" at home, and stick to historic things after hours, too... because Hank and the rest who love the full immersion experience are as deserving of kindness and respect as everyone else. That may mean two, slightly-separate after hours areas, with the modern folks retiring from the historic settings, perhaps, so those remaining on site or in the setting area can expect a more immersed attitude.

The challenges in getting people to ACCEPT that those in servant roles want to be treated as servants are real... we like to be so very egalitarian today, that we overlook the huge variety of roles and dignities available in the past. For that, I really think pre-event communication and education are the only fix; people have to separate Servant-At-Event Liz from Modern-Internet Liz, for instance. Smiley
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Joanna Jones
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« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2011, 04:08:32 PM »

The event I went to in the spring had planned to "go-live" at 9pm the evening it started; so many old friends kept arriving during the evening and there was so much (modern) catching up to do that it was decided on the spot to go-live at reveille the next morning instead.  It worked - I heard not a single modern conversation for 3 days.  It was great, and I had a couple of magic moments.


Sometimes I find I am too uncomfortable to speak up when modern conversations start.  My momma told me never to interrupt! Cheesy  It is usually just me who is bothered so I feel a bit outnumbered.
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