Acting Out History

So, What kinda got you into working here, at Colonial Williamsburg?

Well, I will go first because I am retired. It’s not a career for me. I came down here from Delaware. I was a teacher in my other life, Mathematics, not History, and we retired down here. I have been down here a while, my wife and I had our Honeymoon here 46 years ago.

 

Oh wow, that’s nice.

Yeah, so we kept coming down because Delaware plays William and Mary in sports and we bought a house down here and we moved down full time. The guy who used to do this volunteer position in the garden had to quit because of his health, so I popped in. So, I do this twice a week on average, and I work in the gardens.

 

Cool!

Plus I don’t have to wear a powdered wig. So that’s my story, I do this for fun. This is an apprentice, and this is his career.

 

Oh wow.

I also do it for fun though, I chose a career that I was going to have fun doing, so I didn’t have to work a single day in my life. That was the idea. Even though I don’t get paid that much.

 

How long have you been doing it?

Well, I’ve been in the living history field for a while, which started with my first internship in the field in 2010. But I’ve always been involved in History and horticulture. I started reenacting when I was 10 years old and uh, started to work in the nursery industry before once I was legal to work and make money, Ah yeah, I kinda just realized that I wanted to go into the museum field in my career. So I started to go to school, Siena College in New York, because they had a program on the revolutionary war era, and there are only a few schools that have that program, William and Mary being one of them, but it was way out of my price range…

 

Especially out of state…

But actually, I did end up coming down to William and Mary for a semester, as part of the NIAHD program, and you are probably familiar with that if you are an American Studies major. So that’s when I did my Internship there, in 2010. And then I worked for the National Park Service, and then after I graduated College I worked at Fort Ticonderoga in Upstate New York, and then came down here. At Ticonderoga, I got into a director level position, pretty good sized museum, and it was a good paying gig, but it started to become more of a desk job than working with my hands. So I left all of that to get back to into the trenches.

 

That’s great! What is your favorite part of reenacting?

Portraying and representing people who could easily be forgotten, and the stories of what happened. Kinda portraying them as people and not as a time period, you know, as some statistic or something. Obviously starting in military history has always been a big thing for me, but the more you get into military history, the more you learn about personal stories and personal history and how people’s families were affected by war and how it really can relate to anyone. As an American Studies Major, my thesis was on PTSD among Revolutionary War veterans, so it was pretty awesome research.

 

That’s really cool. So do you, here at Colonial Williamsburg, portray a certain character, or just kinda someone from the time period?

So, you’ll see people here at CW that are in what we call first-person interpretation, They are the people that are actually in the time period, and they are usually portraying someone like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, or someone like that. Most of the people in the Historic trades department or giving tours of buildings, or tours for groups, are in what we call “Third person interpretation”. Which tends to be a person in the period costume, using period techniques and practicing the trade, but will talk to you like I am. And you know, in the trades department, they are talking about gardening or carpentry or metal work, or whatever it may be, they talk about those technologies. But you really need to transcend time. You can’t just be stuck in one specific era, so it’s important to do the third person. Now there is this kind of thing that we call “pseudo-third person”, which is where you are portraying something, and you try to narrow that third person down, so instead of just being a modern person wearing funny clothes, talking about History, you are portraying a gardener. Maybe you are portraying a specific individual, but you are not talking as that individual. So you are gonna dress like them and do the things that person would do, which makes sense in military history, they do this a lot in reenacting, where they are portraying a company of soldiers within a regiment within the army.

 

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