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Author Topic: Advice? Controversial impressions at mainstream events  (Read 10484 times)
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Anna Worden Bauersmith
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« Reply #20 on: September 25, 2013, 11:05:23 AM »

In regards to your concerns about participant reactions -

Based on my experience and observations, I would be prepared for some level of defensive response/discussion. I find some people often respond to something new or different to them in a defensive way rather a curious way.

An example from a couple years back sticks with me. At a mainstream, historic setting event, a poor woman came begging into the front yard of my home where I had some guests. She was in character and impeccably "poorly" dressed. In character, I acted as I thought a benevolently minded woman should; offering her some food to take with her as well as some drink. Some of my guests were aghast and very upset. Sadly, this was not in character. I actually heard about it for quite some time after. This interaction was simply a recognition of the depths of poverty and acts of benevolence in the mid-century. Even this simple, rather short, scenario caused what I can only surmise to be uncomfortablity resulting in the defensive, negative reaction.

I've observed similar reactions by others to new people and new impressions since then. In my opinion, the emotion driven reaction is a combination of uncertainty, skepticism, and territorialism. This may be subdued by pre-event communication not only about your impression, but your intentions as well. You are not there to 'take over' or to change them; you are there to interact with visitors.

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« Reply #21 on: September 25, 2013, 04:14:09 PM »

Hank,

This is an example of what I am talking about...  Probably very similar to your discussion with the two USCT re-enactors.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/24/a-slaves-service-in-the-confederate-army/?ref=opinion&_r=0

From the article:

The event prompted mixed reactions from descendants of Silas and Andrew. Silas's great-granddaughter, Myra Chandler Sampson, denounced the ceremony as, "an attempt to rewrite and sugar-coat the shameful truth about parts of our American history." She added that Silas, "was taken into a war for a cause he didn?t believe in. He was dressed up like a Confederate soldier for reasons that may never be known."

But Andrew Chandler Battaile, great-grandson of Andrew, met Myra's brother Bobbie Chandler at the ceremony. He saw the experience a bit differently. "It was truly as if we had been reunited with a missing part of our family."

Bobbie Chandler, for his part, accepts the role his great-grandfather played in the Confederate army. He observed, "History is history. You can't get by it."


You may very well run across people who know that slaves with closer and direct attachments with family members, and those slaves who's social standing within a community were fairly significant, often had reasons for being loyal and protective of their, "family responsibilities," and social position. And those same folks may also know that field slaves may have had very little reason to feel any loyalty whatsoever towards anyone, and especially little or no devotion towards their owners.

But more than likely, you will encounter many people, including many re-enactors, who don't have this prior frame of reference and may not react to you in a positive fashion.

Some literature and/or a bridge activity may be necessary to preempt your immersion into first person activities.



« Last Edit: September 25, 2013, 05:17:18 PM by Chip » Logged
Donna Rowan
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« Reply #22 on: September 26, 2013, 07:49:21 PM »

Hank.Any event where I camp and you need a fire to hang around you are more then welcome to come hang around with me. But you may find your self in the company of other socixcaly unexceptabls[who arent spending the eveing getting puking drunk] but we do have some grand Irish sing alongs.And great conversations,that don't normally include facebook or WW2 tanks.We had a lady come to Zoar a few years back.She was doing a Harriet Tubman[I think] 1st person. Totally wonderfull impression. She was as far as I could gather with no group. Her only draw back was she was saddled with 2 teenage grand kids? with radios and headphones clamped firmly to there heads following her like they were forced to. Rolling there eyes when ever she spoke. We had a lady dressed as a poor person,and perhaps a bit "off kilter", at Gettysburg. She came around wanting to know if we had any shoes she could shine for  money.Thought that was cool too.
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hanktrent
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« Reply #23 on: September 26, 2013, 08:00:16 PM »

Donna,

I might just take you up on that! What are you planning to attend in the Ohio-WV area next year?

For what it's worth, I just saw a Harriet Tubman performer last weekend. Don't know if she was the same one, since of course as a spectator I only saw her doing a talk without anyone else with her, but she was excellent during her presentation.

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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #24 on: October 03, 2013, 03:58:43 PM »

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Let's say, um, not hypothetically, I bring my hound and portray a slave catcher at an event where it would loosely fit--not actually doing anything, just talking to the public about my job and its larger context, like someone else might have a display and talk about working for the railroad or the telegraph office or being a newspaper reporter or a blacksmith or tinsmith, similar to the other portrayals I've seen.


One of the reasons I've chosen to portray a tailor is that it gives me something to do.  I can always bring hand sewing, and if there is room I can set up a hand-crank sewing machine.  I can display my irons, and if there is a fire I can actually use them.  If the public is interested I can actually show them what I'm doing, which has led to some interesting conversations.  If they are not, I'm quite happy to continue with my work.  The down side (if there is one) is I sometimes get people bringing me buttons or chevrons to sew on; which is fine if I'm not busy with someone else.  Of course, I'm not really into "first person" so I don't have a philosophical problem switching back and forth from being a tailor, to talking about tailoring, to listening to an old lady from Eastern Europe telling me about her father working with similar tools when she was a girl.  Obviously this is a problem if you really want to stay "in character".

The biggest drawback I can see to your idea is that you're "not actually doing anything".  Some of the public may understand, but most probably won't really be interested.  Some, especially north of the river, may be offended or hostile.  Reenactors may react in a similar fashion, and the worst outcome from your point of view might be those who think they know something about first person drafting you as a "bit player" in some "bad reenacting theater".  Such as a "town marshal" showing up with a posse to arrest you, or a Union military detachment doing the same; or even worse, a Confederate officer asking you to find "his property" and expecting you and the dog to play along.  Knowing you "like first person" such people might be highly offended if you refused to go along with their amateur impromptu muddle.

One idea occurs to me -- how about making the dog the star of the show?  If she's still young she could still be in training, and you could portray a breeder looking for a buyer.  The mildly curious (in either century) will probably just say "Oh what a pretty dog" and move on.  Others will want to know how old she is, what kind of hound she is -- and then you can bring up the slave catcher angle.  If people are offended by that, well, you're not the villain, you're just an honest businessman.  Might provide a "gentler" introduction to a difficult subject.
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hanktrent
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« Reply #25 on: October 03, 2013, 06:33:58 PM »

The biggest drawback I can see to your idea is that you're "not actually doing anything".  Some of the public may understand, but most probably won't really be interested.

As far as the public, I really don't anticipate a problem, the difference being they come already expecting to learn and/or meet somebody from the past.

For example, at the recent event where I was a plantation owner, I was even less interesting-looking--just a guy hanging out in town trying to get some news, not even a dog with me. But I'd strike up a conversation, and before long, with many of them at least, we were in long discussions about topics of mutual interest, maybe not even directly related to the Yankee occupation at hand. We covered everything from my father's tobacco plantation back in Virginia to politics to food to various religious denominations.

If they're not interested, they can just wander along of course, but if there are any visitors at all, I rarely find the public so uninterested that there's no one to talk with. With a first person impression, where you're portraying all facets of a whole person equally rather than mainly focussing on an occupation, there are so many potential topics that one can usually find something in common. In between, of course, I can always kill time playing with Venus.

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the worst outcome from your point of view might be those who think they know something about first person drafting you as a "bit player" in some "bad reenacting theater".

That's a good point, and I really don't want to go down that road. But I'm talking about events that are so... well... For example, at a recent one I attended as a spectator, Frederick Douglass was there all day and gave a couple of speeches, as were Abe Lincoln and General Grant.

I can't imagine anyone asking him, or General Grant, or the couple with the telegraph display, or the blacksmith, to participate in any sort of impromptu hokey "scenario," so I'm hoping I'd kinda fall in the same category, and even if asked, could just politely say no thanks.

Do people tend to ambush you without asking? If so, what are the unspoken rules?

At c/p/h events I know the norms and trust the participants and am glad to play rough if necessary, because that's all part of what makes life in the 19th century realistic, but at events where there's no realism anyway, I really don't trust random strangers to hold a gun or knife on me point-blank, put handcuffs on me, confiscate my stuff out of my sight, etc., simply because they want to. And I'd have no idea how much realism would be allowed in response vs. what would have them calling security.

Does that kind of thing go on without prior permission? What are the unwritten rules?

By the way, the impression would be functional if I ever did want to use it at c/p/h events--I'm doing tracking training now, and we're up to 100 yards with right-angle turns in the woods on a fresh track. Not sure how far her natural ability will take her as far as handling old tracks on difficult surfaces, but we'd at least look like we know what we're doing.

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One idea occurs to me -- how about making the dog the star of the show?  If she's still young she could still be in training, and you could portray a breeder looking for a buyer.  The mildly curious (in either century) will probably just say "Oh what a pretty dog" and move on.  Others will want to know how old she is, what kind of hound she is -- and then you can bring up the slave catcher angle.  If people are offended by that, well, you're not the villain, you're just an honest businessman.  Might provide a "gentler" introduction to a difficult subject.

Yes, I think that would definitely work! Without the dog, I think the impression would fall flat as far as public interpretation, but she would be a natural way to engage with strangers and also would help present the impression as a total person in the 19th century, rather than just an occupation.

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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #26 on: October 04, 2013, 03:21:21 PM »

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Do people tend to ambush you without asking? If so, what are the unspoken rules?



I really, really doubt that you'll be in any physical danger.



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But I'm talking about events that are so... well... ...where there's no realism anyway...



I must ask:  If you have such a low opinion of these events and the participants, are you sure you really want to do this?

There are a number of historical sites in the Ohio Valley region connected with slavery.  The Rankin and Parker houses and the Cincinnati Museum of the Underground Railroad come to mind, and I'm sure there are more.  Do you think their staffs might appreciate a well-researched impression of a slave catcher?  If so, wouldn't they be better venues for reaching the public than these events you have so little regard for?
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hanktrent
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« Reply #27 on: October 04, 2013, 06:02:45 PM »

I must ask:  If you have such a low opinion of these events and the participants, are you sure you really want to do this?

Wait, you were the one who brought up bad reenacting theater and the possibility that people would be highly offended if I didn't play along. That wasn't even something I'd considered, until it reminded me of things like this: http://gettysburgblog.com/?p=76

What I meant by this:
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But I'm talking about events that are so... well... ...where there's no realism anyway...

was there's no realism overall, no interconnected participation. It's disjointed by design; each impression is meant to stand alone: Confederate and Union soldiers camping within sight, Lincoln and Lee and Grant and Frederick Douglas together, some reminiscing about the war, some being portrayed during the war. The officers don't come over and send messages on the telegraph display; the US and CS women don't shun each other. I didn't expect that civilians would be recruited to interact in a historic scenario, or if anyone tried, I didn't think anyone would be highly offended if someone declined, but I may be wrong.

What worries me is that I can't seem to understand the norms of these events the way everyone else apparently does easily, and therefore I can't judge what unwritten rules you can bend and what you should never break. Everyone emphasizes that you should have as accurate, well-researched impression as you can--I heard that several times when I asked how to get involved--but it's clearly not that simple, and I don't want to be facing "highly offended" reenactors again, because I've seen how bad it can get years ago.

If I could just have fun doing my own thing, it would be great, and that's what it looked like everyone was doing, and what I would hope to do.

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There are a number of historical sites in the Ohio Valley region connected with slavery.  The Rankin and Parker houses and the Cincinnati Museum of the Underground Railroad come to mind, and I'm sure there are more.  Do you think their staffs might appreciate a well-researched impression of a slave catcher?  If so, wouldn't they be better venues for reaching the public than these events you have so little regard for?

Those are great ideas and well worth pursuing, but as far as I know, it's really all the same people, or at least friends of friends of the same folks. The Frederick Douglass impersonator was absolutely amazing, and I can't imagine he doesn't go to those places also. They certainly should invite him. Same for the USCT soldiers, Harriet Tubman, etc.

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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #28 on: October 04, 2013, 08:44:01 PM »

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What I meant by this...was there's no realism overall, no interconnected participation.


Fair enough, now I see where you are coming from!

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What worries me is that I can't seem to understand the norms of these events the way everyone else apparently does easily, and therefore I can't judge what unwritten rules you can bend and what you should never break.


Norms do vary by event, unit, and individual; but I think the essential concept is that "mainstream" reenactors generally view themselves as performers under contract.

The contract is simple.  They are obliged to deliver certain activities, the ones listed on the public schedule.  In return, they receive the customary amenities:  water, sanitary conveniences, camping space, and straw for bedding.  In some cases they may receive free meals, which may be period appropriate but generally aren't. 

Their "units" may levy additional requirements, such as drills, guard duty, and various meetings; but the rest of their time is their own.  Hence your confusion about what is being represented; it's all up to the individual and his group.  Some prefer to leave the event and eat modern food, or visit a nearby historical site.  Some visit "Sutler's Row", which isn't just shopping but often includes speakers and public presentations. Some will indulge in period pastimes, or sleep (correct in any period  Smiley) but "first person" is generally rare.

Most events have limited "public hours", and time after this is generally considered "down time".  Some people actually change out of period dress (presumably they find it uncomfortable) in order to relax.  Some will attend period entertainment if provided; others have their "campfire time".  First person interaction is rare to non-existent.

It's useful to remember that for many participants "the hobby" is also their prime field of social interaction (outside of work).  This is responsible for much of the "breaking character" as people meet and catch up with their friends.  Generally speaking, I'd say most "mainstreamers" see no reason to be "in character" in the absence of the public or if not "on duty".

As for civilians, the "mainstream" hobby does not know what to do with them.  Sometimes there are social activities directed towards women, but there is rarely if ever anything for men.  So you should be free to do as you like, as long as it's not seen as interfering with the publicly scheduled activities "under contract".

The "VIP" impersonators you met are generally hired by the event organizers, and probably aren't reenactors.  They may be paid to appear, and are really "under contract" to give their "two lectures or speeches per day".  The rest of their time is their own.  They might set up a booth on "Sutler Row", or just wander around; which is how you get Lincoln meeting General Lee, or debating Jefferson Davis.

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Those are great ideas and well worth pursuing, but as far as I know, it's really all the same people, or at least friends of friends of the same folks.


I don't know why that's an issue, because they would be different venues, with different expectations.  You would presumably be on the hook for some kind of presentation, but the rest of the time would be your own.  I think you might also encounter a different kind of spectator at such places than at the typical "battle" reenactment.

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hanktrent
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« Reply #29 on: October 04, 2013, 09:56:13 PM »

Norms do vary by event, unit, and individual; but I think the essential concept is that "mainstream" reenactors generally view themselves as performers under contract.

Thank you! That makes a lot of sense and explains it extremely well. In other words, they don't want to do any more "performing" than the minimum their contract requires, and maybe even want to actively stop anyone who is "working too hard," the way old hands will discourage an enthusiastic new co-worker from putting in free overtime even if they're not expected to.

Wow. I'm coming at it from a totally different direction. I'm doing the "performance" purely because it's fun, so more performing equals more fun. Because the only reward that I want is an appreciative audience, I try to offer that freely, assuming others want the same. But it doesn't seem to be a reward that others want, let alone want to give back--because as I see now, their rewards are other things, including not having to perform at all.

The "contract" idea also explains why it seems like living history is something spectators enjoy for its own sake but reenactors grudgingly put up with, which of course is why I have more in common with spectators.

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Those are great ideas and well worth pursuing, but as far as I know, it's really all the same people, or at least friends of friends of the same folks.


I don't know why that's an issue, because they would be different venues, with different expectations.  You would presumably be on the hook for some kind of presentation, but the rest of the time would be your own.  I think you might also encounter a different kind of spectator at such places than at the typical "battle" reenactment.

My comment was mostly based on the misunderstanding that I didn't like the people/impressions at local mainstream events, so I meant that such places wouldn't be an alternative to them.

But when you say the rest of the time would be my own, do you mean to interpret to the public? I'm not sure they're used to that. I'd be afraid such venues would offer less interpretation time overall, because after my specific presentation, everyone would expect my "contract" would end and my "event" would simply be over, unlike a reenactment that at least expects 9-5 interpretation. It still might be worth looking into, though, after I try the impression out on random visitors and figure out what approach works best.

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« Reply #30 on: October 05, 2013, 07:36:19 AM »

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In other words, they don't want to do any more "performing" than the minimum their contract requires...


That's an assumption on your part.  The "rule" is that everyone does at least the minimum.  For many individuals and groups, that's enough; but others believe in staying "on duty" as long as the site is open, and a few from event start to finish.  I think if you got to know some of them, you'd find "typical mainstreamer" is just as illusory a concept as "typical hardcore".


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...and maybe even want to actively stop anyone who is "working too hard," the way old hands will discourage an enthusiastic new co-worker from putting in free overtime even if they're not expected to.


That may be an issue with some groups, but will not be with most.  Seeing you "working so hard" they might try to "help" you, such as offering you food and drink -- which might in modern containers, or inappropriate to the time and place portrayed.  And they might not understand why you refuse to accept.  But it's unlikely they'll actively try to stop you, unless your activities are perceived as interfering with theirs in some way.



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But when you say the rest of the time would be my own, do you mean to interpret to the public? I'm not sure they're used to that. I'd be afraid such venues would offer less interpretation time overall, because after my specific presentation, everyone would expect my "contract" would end and my "event" would simply be over...



That's obviously something you would need to work out with the site.  Once they got to know you, your interpretation might become your presentation.  For instance, the docent greets the visitors, gives them the house tour, then mentions "we have some period people on site you might like to talk to, including the slave catcher and his dog..."  After that it's up to them (and you).
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« Reply #31 on: October 05, 2013, 08:04:57 AM »

That's an assumption on your part.  The "rule" is that everyone does at least the minimum.  For many individuals and groups, that's enough; but others believe in staying "on duty" as long as the site is open, and a few from event start to finish.  I think if you got to know some of them, you'd find "typical mainstreamer" is just as illusory a concept as "typical hardcore".

That's the problem. If everyone's goal was the same, I'd know what to do. But when the spectrum is so broad, and there's no right or wrong beyond doing the bare minimum, I can't figure out what anyone expects, without a lot of social mistakes. What's happened previously is I'll try to find others interested in still being "on duty," and be interacting with them as if it's 186x, and they'll suddenly start talking about modern things and expect me to also. There doesn't seem to be any cue for the change, but everyone behaves as if it's obvious they're right and anyone who wants to keep interacting in 186x is wrong. But I can't figure out what changed.

Same thing with the modern food, as you mentioned. Seems there's a catch-22, where one person wants you to accept modern food, while another will tease you for not being a "hardcore" anymore.

Others seem to intrinsically understand how all this works, but I just simply can't get it. That's why I think I'm better off being a loner, just because I'm so unable to "get" what everybody else obviously understands.

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« Reply #32 on: October 05, 2013, 09:20:32 AM »

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Others seem to intrinsically understand how all this works, but I just simply can't get it. That's why I think I'm better off being a loner, just because I'm so unable to "get" what everybody else obviously understands.


I'm not sure they "get it" either, but they don't let it bother them (or not as much).  I think the reason has to do with motivation.  As we went over in another thread, most reenactors are there for belonging, competition, or learning.  You seem to be one of the few truly motivated by "becoming" -- the desire to truly experience another time period.


So, in the case of these "time warps for no apparent reason":

- The pure "belonger" doesn't care, because he is just trying to fit in with what everyone else is doing.  (Of course, because he feels pressured to go along, he'll watch the group "leaders" closely for subtle cues about what they're doing and try to fit in).

- The pure "competitor" doesn't care, because he's trying to be "the best" (or buy "the best").  He may want to come up with a "better" way to signal transitions (some people suggest removing one's hat, for example), but he's mostly concerned about doing the same things "better", rather than trying new things or "becoming" someone else.

- The pure "learner" doesn't care, because he's busy soaking up information about his narrow specialty.  Mentally he isn't even at the event; it's a place to get what he wants, not a destination in itself.

- The "becomer" is totally confused.  "Don't these people know what century they're supposed to be in?  Isn't that what we came here for?"


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« Reply #33 on: October 05, 2013, 11:59:03 AM »

Yep, I think you nailed it!

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« Reply #34 on: October 07, 2013, 01:13:35 PM »

Jim commented about making the dog the star of the show. You may not have a choice and I overlooked the dog when I first responded.

Dog lovers (my self included) will run over people to meet your dog.

I brought my mutt to a recent "Lantern Tour" event and he stole the show to the point I had other participants ready to transfer scenarios so they could hang out with him for the evening and folks come back after the tour to meet him.* Just imagine the interest stirred by a great looking specimen of an unusual breed!

This small controlled environment was a great opportunity for socialization and training and he did very well. But I would never take him to a large mainstream event.

Your dog is young enough she'll truly benefit from the exposure.

Liz W.

* Buckley is not a "pretty" dog, is decidedly NOT receptive to strangers (unless you are in period clothing), is suspicious of little girls and if you startle him his barrroooo bark will blow your eardrums out.  By the end of the night he had clearly had enough of people, cornmeal jumbles and ham and slept for the next two days.
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« Reply #35 on: October 07, 2013, 05:02:31 PM »

Dog lovers (my self included) will run over people to meet your dog.

It's funny you mention that, because we just took her as a spectator to a local Rev War event Saturday, to see how she'd do, and that was about what happened. At one point, she was kissing the face of one little girl, while another hung on her neck, another was holding her tail, while a little boy ran over shouting "Doggy!" She just stood there and soaked up the attention. In the camps, the strange clothes and funny smells and sounds didn't bother her and she let anyone who wanted to, pet her, and if they leaned over, she'd kiss their face.

There wasn't any battle, but one fellow demonstrated firing in camp and the sound made her a little worried, but she relaxed quickly. The little girl pile-on happened just a few minutes later and she was ready for it and loved it. So I think she's cut out for this. The only thing that got her barking and pulling was an Indian dancing with a huge set of feathers on his back that flapped up and down like wings when he hopped. Oddly, she didn't even notice the noice of the loud drums over to the side that he was dancing to.

There's a local Civil War event in about three weeks, and we'll try her as a spectator again there.

When I actually try this as a participant in the role next year, it will be a strange contrast. "Oh look at the cute doggy. Isn't that sweet. Wait a minute. You do what for a living?"  Grin

I figure her friendliness will lead into the topic of the difference between catch dogs and track hounds.
 
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Chip
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« Reply #36 on: October 11, 2013, 05:48:19 AM »

Playing the role of a Louisiana planter will certainly include some not so typical conditions than what you would find in other areas of the antebellum South.


This is an interesting thesis on the subject:

http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-04042005-172526/unrestricted/Pastor_thesis.pdf


The free black population enjoyed more rights and status than any other area of the South as well with the exceptions of Mobile and Pensacola.


Many of the free Black slave owners were quite wealthy and powerful.



 
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« Reply #37 on: October 11, 2013, 01:17:40 PM »

Playing the role of a Louisiana planter will certainly include some not so typical conditions than what you would find in other areas of the antebellum South.

This is an interesting thesis on the subject:

http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-04042005-172526/unrestricted/Pastor_thesis.pdf

The free black population enjoyed more rights and status than any other area of the South as well with the exceptions of Mobile and Pensacola.

Many of the free Black slave owners were quite wealthy and powerful.

Well, yes, but this kind of thing didn't go on as much either, outside of the really big deep-south plantations:
http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/barrow.htm There was a reason slaves feared being sold down-river. Unfortunately, I couldn't bring that up much because it wasn't the kind of thing cultured white people talked about to guests, but I really wish we'd had some black reenactors to give their view of life.

Though sorta off topic for this specific thread, the French Catholic problem does bring up the difficulty of portraying the demographics of a specific area, when those demographics are unlike what reenactors are used to portraying. The county we were portraying was heavily French Catholic, but the only choice for me (and apparently all the other civilians) was to either do a really bad portrayal of a French Catholic, or a better impression of a non-French non-Catholic. I chose to portray a protestant originally from Virginia, the fictional brother of a real-life local man who had died a few years earlier, but because all the reenactors made similar choices, we had no French Catholics being portrayed.

I talked about the French Catholics in the area, and I could apply a lot of my pre-existing deep-south plantation research to any generic cotton plantation down there, and the real-life brother of the fictional man I was portraying had been the business-partner of a Virginian I'm currently writing a book about so I could talk in detail about how our family had made their money.

But one simply can't learn all the habits, phrases, etc. of Catholicism or being French, well enough to pull off a believable one-time portrayal, even if demographically that's what at least a few reenactors should be. The same is true for any other unusual historic setting. Not sure what the solution is.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@gmail.com
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Elaine M
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« Reply #38 on: October 15, 2013, 08:18:34 PM »

Hank,

You've brought up many things to think about!  Since most of the events near us (IL) are mainstream, let me give you my perspective.

1. Because our experiences tend to be local except for nationals or something special, I am beginning to realize how very different reenacting is in different areas of the country. Hence, I will speak to what I know around here.  In my area being an independent civilian is perfectly acceptable; in civilian camp you will find both civilian units and individuals.  You'll also find some military mixed in.  Normally we do not explain to the organizers what we plan to do unless they specifically ask it on the registration form. 

2.  You will need to check with each event organizer if dogs are allowed at their venue.  There is a local unit that prefers to camp with their dogs and they tell me that not every location allows dogs.

3.  Milliken's Bend was unusual as far as events go - the flyers at most events are simply schedules of the contract players, the fashion show, and the battle not explanations of what people should expect to see.  I have never seen a 3rd person docent at an event unless provided by the unit itself. 

4.  You mentioned not necessarily wanting to socialize with the others at events.  You might find life easier if you do - you don't have to sit and chat nor have tea nor sit around the campfire, but it is always good to introduce yourself to your neighbors (not to mention polite in both eras).  If you are regarded as standoffish or stuck up, other reenactors may tend to regard you unfavorably - that's when suspicions start.  You will have to do this in third person on Friday night or early Saturday morning (if you don't want to stay overnight).  Most reenactors do not consider the event to have started at those hours.    We tend to stay with our friends (eventually those with a like mind tend to find each other) but we always chat with others during set up and break down. 

5.  None of the events near us are 1st person.  Once again, Milliken's Bend was a special event.  That doesn't mean you can't do 1st person.  It does mean that virtually no one around will understand what you are doing.  Part of the problem stems from event organization.  None of the events I attend specify a year or location - or if they do, we don't find out until we get there.  There is no coordination of civilians - you would need a person in charge and that would cause a huge amount of resentment and anger.  I was at one event were a woman came to me in 1st person - she was supposed to be in Virginia.  And I was supposed to be in Tennessee.     The event we will attend this weekend will be portraying Gettyburg on Saturday and Chickamauga on Sunday.  Most civilians near us change out when the spectators leave.  We simply keep to ourselves - our neighbors know that's what we like to do.  That's where having friendly relationships helps; - we don't go socialize after the spectators leave because we want to stay in the moment - they at least don't think we are mean or snobbish. 

6. I personally applaud the idea of a slave catcher - we as a community tend to cover over the topic, not wanting to ruffle feathers.  I won't even talk about the amount of disagreement, because I am sure you are aware it.  I don't think you need worry if it is something the public wants to know or not - I will be doing Ladies' Gymnastics this weekend - it is non-controversial, but the public has no idea it even existed.  I felt it would be a fun way to involve spectators.  But for your topic, well,this is where I may need to change my comments on #1 - you may need to run your impression by event organizers.  A gentleman whom I know was talking about running a slave auction - and another man who is on the board of a lot of the local events stated very emphatically that he would never allow something like that at an event he was part of.  Historic or not, it wouldn't matter.   I would suggest you approach the organizers with an advertising tactic - let them know the extent of your research,  & how you would enhance the event. 

With best regards,

Elaine M.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 08:28:44 PM by Elaine M » Logged
hanktrent
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« Reply #39 on: October 15, 2013, 09:54:48 PM »

Hi Elaine!

What you describe sounds just like what I've seen as a spectator at local events, so that's very helpful!

4.  You mentioned not necessarily wanting to socialize with the others at events.  You might find life easier if you do - you don't have to sit and chat nor have tea nor sit around the campfire, but it is always good to introduce yourself to your neighbors (not to mention polite in both eras).  If you are regarded as standoffish or stuck up, other reenactors may tend to regard you unfavorably - that's when suspicions start.  You will have to do this in third person on Friday night or early Saturday morning (if you don't want to stay overnight).  Most reenactors do not consider the event to have started at those hours.    We tend to stay with our friends (eventually those with a like mind tend to find each other) but we always chat with others during set up and break down.  

5.  None of the events near us are 1st person.  Once again, Milliken's Bend was a special event.  That doesn't mean you can't do 1st person.  It does mean that virtually no one around will understand what you are doing.

The combination of #4 and #5 is what concerns me. As far as I can tell, the events never really "begin." In other words, let's say I'm talking as myself to others up until early Saturday morning. At that point, I begin reenacting and try my best to portray someone from the 1860s, but they won't make the same transition.

So how do I ever start reenacting, around them? I guess the following is the answer, and that's what I mean by not socializing:

Quote
Most civilians near us change out when the spectators leave.  We simply keep to ourselves - our neighbors know that's what we like to do.  That's where having friendly relationships helps; - we don't go socialize after the spectators leave because we want to stay in the moment - they at least don't think we are mean or snobbish.

Here's a question. How does one deal with using a different name, location, etc.? I'm thinking of using the name of a real man approximately my age who kept "negro dogs" in Kentucky in 1860, then adapting fictional/typical details to fit whatever the specific historic situation is.

Do I switch names and hometowns at a certain time Saturday and correct them politely? Are mainstream reenactors okay with that? Or is it simpler just to say from the start that I'm [Historic Name] from Kentucky, if anyone wants to know, and keep the conversation vague and generic?

Years ago, I sometimes found reenactors at mainstream events would get hostile if I didn't give them the "right" answers to their questions or politely corrected them, even with spectators around: "I thought they said your name was Hank." "They said you were from Ohio. Where are you really from?" That's what I mean about reenactors actively trying to stop you from reenacting.

Or are they more apt to get hostile if they discover much later that I've been "lying" to them about my name and location?

Is there an accepted, normal way of handling the use of a different name and hometown at mainstream events?

Quote
But for your topic, well,this is where I may need to change my comments on #1 - you may need to run your impression by event organizers.

I'd certainly feel more comfortable doing that. It just seems too strange to show up without checking with someone first.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@gmail.com
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