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Author Topic: Advice? Controversial impressions at mainstream events  (Read 11755 times)
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« Reply #60 on: November 27, 2013, 09:21:14 PM »

Clausewitz is perfectly fascinating, though, and I'd highly recommend reading him if you portray a deep thinker of the time. It sheds a lot of light on mid 19th century military thought and how the 19th century is clearly a transitionary period. Clausewitz deftly reveals a lot about human nature in war that is obvious when read yet you would have never considered it otherwise.

Indeed.  And if the company will permit another digression, we could apply a "Clausewitzian framework" to reenacting.  It may be nothing more than a parody, but there might be some useful insights as well.

Clausewitz posits that there are many kinds of war, with the extreme cases being "absolute" war (all possible force concentrated and expended in an instant) and a "mere continuation of policy by other means".  In the same way, we can posit many different kinds of reenactments, with the extremes being:

- Absolute, total immersion, where we literally "become" people from an earlier period for the duration;

- A "mere continuation of historical instruction with the addition of other means".  Such as costumed docents at a historic site, or a uniformed reenactor giving a "blanket talk" in a high school classroom.

From his synthesis of the two extremes Clausewitz draws the following principle:

Now, the first, the grandest, and most decisive act of judgment which the statesman and general exercises is rightly to understand in this respect the war in which he engages, not to take it for something, or to wish to make of it something which, by the nature of its relations, it is impossible for it to be.

What is good for statesmen and generals is also good for reenactors.

Clausewitz also speaks of the nature of war as dependent upon a "wonderful trinity" of three forces or "tendencies", which he defines as:

- Violence, hatred, and animosity (mostly associated with the people);

- Probability and chance (mostly associated with generals and armies)

- Political instrumentality (mostly associated with governments)

In the same way, we could look at the nature of reenactment events as dependent upon the expectations and characteristics of three groups:

- The participants

- The spectators

- The event site and its hosts

I'll leave it as an exercise for the students to decide which of these should be associated with pure reason, probability and chance, and violence, hatred and animosity Smiley.

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« Reply #61 on: November 29, 2013, 12:18:58 PM »

In regards to if you should break character in order to "orient" a person who is simply not getting it at an event, there's many schools of thought on that. Plymouth Plantation, a leader in First Person as it's only interpretive method, originally believed that even shocking or "negative" experiences with First Person interpreters was ok for guests, because it was "real" and they believed at that time that it was just as important as the visitor having a "positive" experience. They took the "provoke" part of Tildon quite literally.

They have since changed their view a bit. For instance, the 11 different English dialects practiced and spoken throughout the site are very foreign to most Americans, so, in order to continue to educate their guests, they do dilute their speech so that they can be understood. In other words, the main goal is education, and you can't do that without good communication, so that becomes the prime directive so to say. But for a native Englishman, they will go full on with the dialect because they know their audience in that case will understand and enjoy it, it will not hinder the education. Is it true to the character to adjust one's accent? No. But, if your audience can't understand you, how can you teach them?

Many First Person sites maintain that you don't need to break character or otherwise kill continuity for most of your audience in order to get one to catch up with the program. Take a look at Stacy Roth's "Past into Present" for alot of tips and tricks that expert First Person interpreters use to orient the visitor that just doesn't get it. It may be a simple as saying something like "Well, it's 1864 now, I'm voting for so and so because he's helping out my occupation is some such way. What do you think?" Ok, lousy example, but you get the idea. There are ways to get a guest to play with you without breaking character.

Likewise, you don't always have to be a "pleasant" persona. But there are ways not to scare off visitors if you choose to portray a person who is a little more rough around the edges.

Other great resources are some of the ALHFAM bulletins. Check around and see if any of the historical institutions in your area have the back issues from the 80s and 90s. Discussion was hot on this topic at that time.


Bevin MacRae

"Inspiring excitement and curiosity about the past!"
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