STOP: showing visible tattoos or piercings that cannot be justified by the persona you are creating. Unless you are portraying a french person with a pink wig. It just makes the rest of the people in your group who are trying to take it seriously, look shabby to the public. Most people these days are distinguishing reenactment from living history precisely on those criteria.
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Another thing that we should be willing to take on is being politically incorrect. One of our gigs for the night program was a nasty argument about his taking me to California, which culminated with me chucking a dish at him, which shattered against a wall. Our intent was to portray life as it was, and make people think. We actually finally retired the characters because they took too much emotional toll on us. Another reenactor I knew portrayed a subservient slave.
But we still need to portray the not-pretty parts.
I admit being put in chains and a cage for the witch re enactments can be rather daunting but its necessary too. In a crowd when we begin I try my best to last as long as I can but in the end the Apothicary especially a female one is the first to be accused of witchcraft. After all we do make potions and the likes. It had its dark side. If we do not educate the public on these things are we not doomed to repeat it again some day? I know its all myth but remember it was a very religious era. Even making a prayer at a well could get you killed.
The movie Black Death was a pretty good portrayal of that actually. We certainly need more civilian portrayals. For me they are far more interesting and rewarding than military ones.
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Additionally, I think those of us who do public demonstrations need to get out from behind the rope-line and attend some reenactments a MoP. What we discovered about the events we attended was very eye opening. Although the Celts were well known for their drunken parties they did other things too and that was the impetus for additional research.
I portray a union soldier. My interest is in Napoleonic reenacting. An item very high on my bucket list is to participate with a cavalry unit at a Waterloo event. I get to Europe about once every years and have yet to find a group willing to work something out, even though they say that I look like a better rider than most of their members. One thing to keep in mind—membership itself might be required to participate in events, simply because of legal red tape.
I hope you find a group willing to let you participate at the level you can! I have to say that I have totally enjoyed this discourse. I find history fascinating and love going to an event with reenactors. We run an antique business and dress in period clothing for our events, trying to keep in touch with the time period of our house for the most part.
There is nothing I like better than when someone more knowledgeable than me offers a suggestion for a change in my dress, even if it is a slight variable on what I am already doing. As dealers in primitives as well as early country antiques, it works for our business, but I feel so much better about what we are doing after reading this and all the comments.
I do a lot of interpretation which leaves room for some inconsistencies which I often explain to the public. Instead of chiding those individuals with finger pointing or nasty comments we should look for ways to help them around these obstacles with positive suggestions. More re en-actors makes for a better experience for all!
Great article! I am now in my 18th year as a Civil War re-enactor. When I first began re-enacting, I portrayed a war correspondent. I researched news reporting of the time and spent my first few years as a reporter.
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Spectators were drawn to me because I was doing something different, something that they had never considered or heard of. I later joined a medical unit. We can recreate an war-era field hospital. I still, however, portray a civilian, a civilian contract surgeon.
This still creates interest and education for the spectator. Although we do after-the-battle scenarios where we recreate surgery, we also display our medical equipment and explain it to the public. This went over very, very well. Treating women poorly and then claiming it was due to the time period shows a great deal of historical research is needed by those people. In the Victorian era, upper- and middle-class women were treated very well.
If one projects oneself as being truly authentic, then, I believe, one must research the customs, beliefs, and ideals of the time. It makes me feel a lot better, though, that recently I joined 2 civilian groups in my area for two different time periods, our primary focus being dancing. We have classes every Friday and attend period balls all around the area, not to mention setting up at local reenactments and historical houses and things.
We do demos and hold our own soirees.
If you want to be a woman and be on the field- I say more power to you. Though I will give our members credit, most have voluntarily chosen not to wear glasses when demonstrating in front of the public. I have been considering laser eye surgery to fix my eye problem but money has been very tight. I live on a grant and I am petrified to spend any of the money on myself.
It took me 5 years of waiting and meetings before I even got my grant.
Three cheers! Huzzah Huzzah Huzzah for a lovely conversation with very little nastiness! Well said and well responded to. Ahhh my darling dear took her nap like a good girl and my dearest mother decided to do her daughter a good turn and washed all those smelly dirty clothes. How can one be angry at the good deed of a fine and dear mother??
Now that said I am NOT a fan of fake patina! I hate to hear people talk about how they left a perfectly good frock coat outside for two weeks or they did this or that to age a perfectly good piece.
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Anyhoo, nice article. It will create bad feelings and soon you will find yourself standing on the field by yourself with no soldiers. Stop using the hobby and your fellow reenactors for your own self-aggrandizement. We all use the hobby as a form of escape from the modern world, but if your modern works sucks, work to improve it. Historians have college degrees and are trained research and interpretation of source materials.
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Reading several books on a subject does not an expert make. Unless you have a degree in history you are not a historian plain and simple. My college degree concentration was in the obscure field of historical ethnobotany, and I have applied skills from both my research and my hands-on experience. And can tell you that sometimes the historians who have only research material at hand can arrive at erroneous conclusions.
I am not directing my remarks at the college educated. Disciplined research, as you pointed out, is universally applicable. Yes it is also true taht historians working strictly from source materials can draw incorrect conclusions. That is a fault in his process and he is not a GOOD historian. I am speaking to those who have no idea how to perform any research yet take the attitude they are somehow the purist in the hobby they have been in for 9 months. Of course sailing around in a ship and believing you are performing any useful research on a particular individual is like riding around in 32 Ford believing you are researching Bonnie and Clyde.
We all need to take a deep breath and realize, it is a hobby and it is all thing to everyone. One thing I REALY wish re-enactors whould stop doing: Having these little discusions about how other people should be enjoying their hobby. Use the soap box for fire wood and make your own little part of the hobby better, if enough people think like you you will find each other and viola!
It has worked for me this past 20 years or so. Just to let you know Chris, some of us may not have a history degree, but we have spent a lot of time researching. I have spent the last two years reading book after book after book, thick ones, on every aspect of my role, from clothing to speech. And yes, other people should not tell others how to do things. Re:laundering- If the event is to be seen as a Festive day then most populace would have cleaned up to the best of their ability.