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crowley_greene
06-25-2007, 10:04 AM
Of late, I have been finding growing opportunities to do some interpreting in historic civilian roles in 1800's non-Civil-War settings. I love the opportunity to practice my first person in these settings, but one of the directors has suggested that I think more in terms of modified first person (stepping out of the role to answer questions).

I like his idea a lot for increased flexibility, but the method is a new challenge to me. Do any of you have thoughts or suggestions as to how to move back and forth between first and third person in a presentation?

Murray Therrell
Paragould, AR

netnet81
06-25-2007, 10:20 AM
A good discussion on this is in Past into Present by Stacy Roth.

Frenchie
06-25-2007, 12:07 PM
I learned a lot about public speaking and answering questions from Paul O'Neil at the Baltimore Civil War Museum. One thing he did was to tell the museum guests that while wearing his hat he was speaking in first person (then), and when he removed it he was speaking in third person (now).

crowley_greene
06-25-2007, 10:56 PM
A good discussion on this is in Past into Present by Stacy Roth.

Thank you for that excellent lead!! I ordered the book from Amazon tonight.

Murray Therrell

NoahBriggs
06-26-2007, 05:48 AM
This book is fantastic. It covers everything about first-person, including weird situations: how to deal with the clueless, the antagonistic, children, people with special needs, how to portray a despicable person and still remain open to visitor interaction.

hanktrent
06-26-2007, 06:35 AM
Noah, I know you already know this, since I've spent plenty of time with you in character and it comes natural for you, but just as a comment in general...

I think what the book leaves out is the distinction between real life and theatre, like the difference between historic clothing and a costume. For a stage performance, a costume works just fine. For public interpretation to groups, Stacy Roth's style is just fine, and that of course is what this thread is about. Her book really does cover everything you'd need for public museum interpretation.

But when used where more accuracy, realism and subtlety is expected, Stacy Roth's style will seem artificial and overblown. Even public speakers today don't keep in "public speaking mode" when chatting with their friends, and people in the 1860s didn't either, but she doesn't address how to do that. Nor does she address what to do when you don't need to make everything you say relevant, understandable, and interesting to an uninformed audience, because in her world-view, those qualities are more important than realism or accuracy.

In other words, a historical person portrayed as her book instructs, would be great for an hour's entertainment if I were a museum visitor, but I wouldn't want to spend a weekend with them. :)

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

netnet81
06-26-2007, 09:04 AM
But when used where more accuracy, realism and subtlety is expected, Stacy Roth's style will seem artificial and overblown. In other words, a historical person portrayed as her book instructs, would be great for an hour's entertainment if I were a museum visitor, but I wouldn't want to spend a weekend with them. :)

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

This is very true. However, I think some of her techniques and explanations, suggestions and examples are useful to those who also want a more realistic approach to first person. I think many of us end up doing museum type presentations as well as realistic interaction.

sbl
06-26-2007, 09:56 AM
Thank you for that excellent lead!! I ordered the book from Amazon tonight.



Murray Therrell

Past into Present by Stacy Roth.

I just did too. There are more left...

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0807847100/ref=dp_olp_2/002-6658510-9123242

hanktrent
06-26-2007, 12:15 PM
However, I think some of her techniques and explanations, suggestions and examples are useful to those who also want a more realistic approach to first person. I think many of us end up doing museum type presentations as well as realistic interaction.

I agree. In fact, public interpretation is harder because you've always got two things going on at once, the requirement to meet the visitors' needs through eye contact, keeping interest, being information and clear, not offending, etc., while at the same time staying as close as possible to historic and normal behavior. Historic knowledge alone will never teach good interpretation.

Her book is excellent for that--no argument there.

Unfortunately, I've been around reenactors who think that that's all first person is or can be, and the following behavior will generally always fool them.

Talk in a distinct, authoritative "outdoor" voice to a group of visitors, conveying information about your usual interpretive topic. Then, after the main group has wandered off, start to converse in a relaxed, normal, "aside" voice to the one or two remaining, or a fellow reenactor, or whoever's close by.

If they've only been exposed to museum-style first person, some people will invariably assume you've broken character, because you're now acting like a normal human being, rather than a public speaker.

Yet in 186x, people shifted from public speaking mode to relaxed one-on-one mode all the time, without needing to change into a whole other person.

To go back to the original question, that mindset could be used to one's advantage, to convey when you're in character and when you're not. Changing your general manner from "Here I am performing" to "Here I am just chatting with you-all," if it's obvious enough, will signal to most people that you're not in character any more. Though it does have the drawback of making the 19th century person a bit more theatric, and requiring you to shift quickly into relaxed speech patterns and body language in front of a crowd--not always easy to do!

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Spinster
06-26-2007, 01:49 PM
I employ the 'hat on, hat off' method primarily in 'short term interpretation'---those semi-canned talks that run anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the venue and the interest of the crowd.

Probably the most useful place for me in using hat on-hat off has been in cemetary tours where a very specific character is being portrayed, with dialouge scripted almost verbatim from diaries. In our area, large flat gravestones covering the whole plot are not uncommon, and site managers have often asked that I stand on the gravestone while talking, in order to be seen by the crowd. While it really goes against my raising to stand on a grave, steping down from that stone also provides an excellent clue that I am now out of character.

While its fairly easy for men to remove a hat, a ladies bonnet may require more care---usually my hair is heavily pommaded into submission, and I use a heavier net than normal. When appropriate, I use a sheer slat or corded bonnet for ease in removal.

Oddly, I've never truely considered this sort of work to be true first person---for me that concept conveys a longer period of time, and a more in-depth interpretation of daily life and work----and being a 'task oriented' person, I'm much more interested in interpreting the work.

ElizabethClark
06-27-2007, 08:30 AM
I think some of the most effective interaction I've had with public patrons at a site have been quite informal. I didn't necessarily "break character"--but I did keep the focus on the patron, rather than on my "character."

Last year I was in Georgia, in a nifty historic village called Westville (gorgeous, gorgeous site!). I was stationed on Friday in the "quilt house"--a dog trot with one half set up as a family home, and one front room housing historic quilts and a quilt education display. The regular docent and I were in the breezeway (where it was delicious, even on an 80* southern Georgia day), she working on handpiecing quilt blocks, and me setting the hem in a dress (and it took me all day, with the interruptions.)

School kids came through, as well as tourists, and our "job" was to talk to them about sewing in the 1850s. I didn't find any need to do "public speaking"--what got the kids was being allowed to gather round, look at hand stitching up close, feel the tools (particularly the thimbles and wax), lay out some quilt squares into nice patterns, talk about what sorts of clothes they might wear themselves, discuss how many people live in the house where we're sitting, how many kids shared one bedroom, when kids learned to sew, how long it takes to make a quilt by hand... it was all very informal conversation, and I didn't have any trouble "staying in the past" and still communicating with the public, without confusion. If pressed, I'd say it was going from first person (I, me) to second person (You, Yours), talking about what it would be like for the visitor if they lived in "my" time.

I was definitely in my "public mode"--left to myself I can sit in silence for days at a time, but in "public mode" I'll be glad to engage the patron first with a question or friendly comment--but it was not a formal public mode at all.

crowley_greene
06-30-2007, 07:51 PM
I received my copy of "Past Into Present" in the mail today, and have already read about 50 pages in the book. Some of the previous posts in this thread offered some differing viewpoints on the usefulness or efficaciousness of the book. Interestingly, Stacy Roth herself seems to address in a fair manner what some of the concerns of detractors might be, and suggests that the concerns are indeed legitimate in many cases. So far, in the first 50 pages, the book has drawn me in to want to read more, and read closely. I think it's certainly a worthwhile book to read if one has already undertaken efforts at first-person interpretation and has experienced various challenges of that mode of presenting history in different settings and venues.

Murray Therrell

Sarah Jane Meister
07-07-2007, 07:19 AM
I plan on ordering that book as well. Questioners and pausing passer-by's have increased in number since the baby arrived and this fall I know I shall be even more overwhelmed by them since the new baby will be here by then. I find it difficult to easily pass from 1st person to 3rd person in a consistent manner. My very favorite first person event was Keokuk a few years ago - I 'played' (that isn't the right word to use but I don't know what word could convey my idea better) the role of a deaf girl using signed language to communicate and had my 'interpreter' to explain to those I talked with about me in 1st person/ 3rd person while I was able to keep 1st person up the entire time. It was a fantastic experience.

Sarah