Living History Alive: The Actors Behind the Figures and Their Relationships With The Histories They Tell

Date

2023-05

Authors

Baker, Ava Jane

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Abstract

My thesis examines Living History and Historical Interpretation as it functions as a theatrical and educational medium. It also examines the nuance required by actors and historians to dutifully bring to life. The responsibility to historical integrity taken on by actors at living history museums is significant. It takes a village to make a museum an immersive environment, but what goes into bringing a historical figure to life on an individual level? Where does someone begin their journey as a teacher, researcher, mediator, dramaturg, actor, and writer? What crowd work techniques make an interpreter the most effective? What are the practical and emotional challenges of playing a historical figure? What security measures are in place for these actors enacting polarizing concepts over such large acreages? This essay explores the answers to these questions through discussion of firsthand testimony from employees of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, historical journal explorations of the way living history museums function, historical journal examinations the use of historical imagination in educational environments, published resources featuring behind the scenes looks at character building from several living history museums including Colonial Williamsburg, and more. Through this discussion I hope to make known the theatrical and educational value of immersive living history, the areas in which interpreter safety (physical and mental) must be prioritized, and the incredible amount of skill, research, and imagination that goes into every character.

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Keywords

character interpretation, living history, Colonial Williamsburg, immersive theater, public history, museum theater, Honors College

Citation

Baker, A. J. (2023). Living history alive: The actors behind the figures and their relationships with the histories they tell. Honors College, Texas State University.

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