How do you get started?

Historic questions, thoughts and other interesting stuff

Moderator: Moderators

channyg23

How do you get started?

Postby channyg23 » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:32 pm

Hi everyone!

I have just been re-employed as a guide at a beautiful 18th century landscaped garden site in Yorkshire but they have finally taken my request for a costume and granted it...i now have to come up with a script for the living history which is slightly daunting! I have the knowledge (hopefully!) but trying to create a character is one thing, but a believable character is another! Any tips on script writing??

Hope to hear from you!

Cheers!



User avatar
IDEEDEE
Posts: 147
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 6:47 pm
Location: Brighthelmstone-on-sea

Re: How do you get started?

Postby IDEEDEE » Fri Jan 22, 2010 7:31 pm

Hiya,

I guess if it were me I'd start by thinking about what my strengths are relevant knowledge-wise and what kit/costume is likely to be practicable/avaliable, & then build from there. We're all different, but I've always found that if I'm confident on my material, be that a fact-base (if I'm improvising) or a script by someone else, then the "character" develops organically around the material, influenced by the costume avaliable.

For example, I was asked to lead an "encounter" themed walk (pretty much at the last minute) the other year on the subject of the Poor Law riots(& subsequent raising of the Red Flag) in Alfriston, Sussex, during the 1840s (a subject I remembered practically nothing about from school).

I boned up on the details provided by the organisers, made sure I knew what the various period characters we were going to be meeting on the walk were going to do (probably not relevant in your case) and walked the course of the walk - noting (with my digi camera) memorable/noticable points of interest that I might later refer to in our progress.

I then tore though my dressing-up box to see what outfit I could put together that would be period. With a bit of last minute alteration and one purchase I got together a kind of middling, middle class outfit.

I then (and this was the tricky bit) had to think what character with this costume best suited the scenario (in my case I was not part of the "action", but an observer/walk leader/interlocator) and based upon my limited, specialist (& local) knowledge. I decided on a London journalist (one Charles Dickens - Standing joke: "No. Not THAT one...") - sent down to report on what was going on re. the troubles, and a bit out of his usual stamping ground here in Darkest Sussex (this would allow for any genuine vagueness on my part first time around).

I then did some research myself (making notes) on period details to flesh out the part and, making use of my pics of the walk, wrote for my self some short "speeches" based on the locations I'd picked out as possibly useful.

Once I'd done that I then walked the walk again, to cement these location-based speeches in my noddle (I think of these location-based set pieces as "hooks" on which the rest of the "act" hangs) so that on the first day (there was no time for an actual rehearsal) I had i) a recognisable "type" character for the audience to immediately get their heads around (and for me to play with), ii) a basic historical/factual backgound in my head and iii) a framework of learned, short speeches based on prompts by location (rather than one long one speech for the whole walk) around which I could then improvise to fill in the gaps between the encounters with the other actors on the route.
Doing it this way, by the second day I had my character and a "patter" to cover the whole walk together; this having been honed & altered by the audience reaction/interaction. I now had a much larger, comprehensive script which covered the whole walk but which, because it had "grown" organically, was more memorable than a long, learned, pre-written one would have been (at least, for me, given the timescales & no rehearsal time).

Goodness I've gone on a bit (again), but hope the above might be a help/spark some thoughts....



User avatar
Chris, yclept John Barber
Posts: 337
Joined: Thu Aug 17, 2006 12:23 pm
Location: Sheffield
Contact:

Re: How do you get started?

Postby Chris, yclept John Barber » Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:48 pm

Ideedee's comments are absolutely the way to go when you're developing your script. I think the point of your question is that you don't yet have the character, and until you have the character, you can't decide on a costume or the script outline because you need to know what your character's viewpoint is.

Firstly, you need to look a the knowledge that you have (or need to impart), and ask yourself what sort of character would know all those details. If you intend to talk about renting pineapples for dinner-parties (yes, they were so fashionable and expensive that they were rented out as table centrepieces until they looked too manky), the under-gardener probably wouldn't know that kind of social detail. For an overview of the gardens, you might want to cast yourself as the landscape architect (which would require an explanation of how a woman got into such a male-dominated career) or the lady of the house. The former allows you to talk more about the technical details of construction of garden features, the latter about the social impact of the gardens and the fashionable plants and produce of the times.

In a more technical role, the under-gardener's wife might be a character to speak about how her husband carts in so many tons of finest Whitby seaweed each St. Boggins' Day as fertiliser, and what plants are newly arrived from the far Indies.

The lower down the social order you go, the less likely you are to find a woman doing the job in her own right: if a landscape gardener 'pegs out', his wife might have the ability to take over the business as it would just be viewed at the time as 'household management' on a different scale. If the under-gardener of a large household dies in a bizzare gardening accident, his widow would certainly not get the job, it would go to the best of the 'boys' he supervised, or a crony of the head gardener.

Each of these characters has a different costume, of course, so you need to settle on the role before you find the costume. Unlike Ideedee, you clearly don't already have a dressing-up box so you can change your character if you find that your first decision isn't working out right. Once the role and costume are settled, you're ready to follow Ideedee's advice on script development.

Congrats on getting the job renewed, by the way, and good luck!


Of course he has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives - it's 1183 and we're barbarians.

channyg23

Re: How do you get started?

Postby channyg23 » Wed Jan 27, 2010 2:13 pm

Thank you so much for replying! It's immensely helpful!

I think that a character is definitely paramount and have decided on portraying an 18th century lady of gentle breeding, the land holders wife or sister. This way i can introduce many of the social niceties which seems to be the woman's lot in the 18th cenury as well explore thing like costume, fashion, social propriety and a woman's role in the household. Costume is also important, as the site is an 18th C terraced walk, three miles away from their house (!), I have decided on some kind of riding habit as they would have definitely approached the site on horse back or in a carriage...what do people think?

If anybody has any interesting anecdotes about 18th C women, then please do get in touch!!



User avatar
Dave B
Post Knight
Posts: 1737
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2005 9:34 pm
Location: Cheshire
Contact:

Re: How do you get started?

Postby Dave B » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:09 pm

I'm not convinced that the whole 1st person / in character thing is always the way to go. OK it takes great skill, and is very impressive when done well. However it has it's limitation.

If you are in character, then everything about the 18thC is 'Normal' to you. you can't make comparisons to the present day, or even emphasise the things that are more likely to be interesting to modern sensibilities.

OK, that's not too much of a problem if you only give a talk, but once the public start to ask questions, you have to pretend ignorance of all terms and references after your time period, and all things that someone of your status would never have heard off. That can be quite annoying for them.

I think that for interacting with the general public, there are other ways to go. Given the choice I'd avoid

'I'm a medieval soldier, I have no idea what this battle is about, that's up to the officers'

and go for

'I'm dressed as a medieval soldier, Soldiers equiped in this way fought at the battle of agincourt, defeating a superior french force'

Dave.


Find time in every day to look at your life and say; 'Well, it could be worse'

Kurt's uncle Bob.

channyg23

Re: How do you get started?

Postby channyg23 » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:26 pm

I defintely think you raise an interesting point, third person characterisation enables people to ask questions and i would then be able to answer them...

I remember going for an interview for the role of Anne Boleyn and when asked how I would react if approached by the public and asked "aren't you the queen who was an adulterer?"..I immediately began telling them how i would say that that wasn't definite etc, of course that was the wrong answer as Anne Boleyn in real life would have never spoken to the public, never mind answer really personal questions!!

I think maybe I will take your comments on board, it surely will make my job a lot easier and it is all about visitor enjoyment rather than showing off my acting skills!

Thank you!



User avatar
lucy the tudor
Post Knight
Posts: 1984
Joined: Sat Jul 14, 2007 11:57 am
Location: Lancashire
Contact:

Re: How do you get started?

Postby lucy the tudor » Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:07 pm

Combining the two works quite well, if you do it with confidence.
When I'm Catherine Parr, I give a talk in character, and a talk about the character- it enables the public to see how you would have been, but be sure they are allowed to approach and ask you questions when you are yourself.
So far it has worked really well, with the occasional one asking things like " what do you think she would have said if?", which seems to invite a return to character.
Anything done with good research, enthusiasm, a willingness to listen to your audience, adapt as you go, and delivered with a sense of fun , will be well received.
They want to like you, in the main, so you are already half way there. The odd silly one, or serious heckler wouldn't be swayed by the real thing, so must be managed as their intelligence level dictates.


lucythetudor@gmail.com

a filthy, arse-grabbing strumpet, masquerading as a demure two-door lady.

Marcus Woodhouse
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 3337
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 8:35 pm

Re: How do you get started?

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Jan 27, 2010 9:06 pm

For me its the language thing as well. If I was to really try and portray a Lombard merchant in medieval London I'd first of all need to be fluent in Umbrian, Tuscan and pig Latin. Even if I was speaking medieval English its likely that it would be just as foreign to a modern audience and I loath that Renfaire hey nonnoy nonny style that is a cross between Shakespeare and the Carry On films.
But thats a different thread. I hope you all the best, it's a job many here would love to have a go at and envy you for.


OSTENDE MIHI PECUNIAM!

User avatar
IDEEDEE
Posts: 147
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 6:47 pm
Location: Brighthelmstone-on-sea

Re: How do you get started?

Postby IDEEDEE » Wed Jan 27, 2010 11:59 pm

Some good thoughts there..

Dave B is right about the limitations of being "in character" the whole time, and if you are a guide to a place then people may very well have specific questions that they expect a guide to answer & may get disgruntled if your "character" doesn't know the answer they're seeking (as opposed to my own example above, where the convention was that everyone on the walk was, in a way, part of the action/complicit in the illusion; something most people seemed happy to accept - esp. as there was a promised, modern "round up" Q&A at the end of the walk).

At the same time, Lucy is right about the usefulness of slipping in & out of character. When I've done events/shows where that was necessary (or the best compromise) we've made the change in character obvious in a physical way; with either a recurring gesture or a posture change (where relevant to the character) or, in a couple of cases, by the simple expedient of taking off of a hat (hat on - in character, hat off - not). In general I've found most people are (even if they don't know it themselves) sophisticated enough to be aware of the convention of the fourth wall being potentially fluid, of characters stepping out of the action/character to address them/introduce anacronisms etc.

Oh, and Marcus is right too (as soo very often). As Mister B. would have it: "Don't say `beshrew me', Percy -- only stupid actors say `beshrew me..............It's only a short step from `tush' to `hey nonny nonny'; and then, I'm afraid, I'll shall have to call the police". :)



User avatar
Dave B
Post Knight
Posts: 1737
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2005 9:34 pm
Location: Cheshire
Contact:

Re: How do you get started?

Postby Dave B » Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:39 pm

I recall reading that when Chaucer travelled (From Kent?) to Cheshire on business, he had to employ an interpreter. Perhaps a silly example, but if dialects as actualy spoken varied through the country by so much, they must have been very different from modern speech.

If you can slip in and out of character that seems an ideal compromise. I can't do it personally. However if you give it a try and it doesn't work for you, you can just retreat when thing get sticky.

Personally I'd consider getting some set pieces of actual 'presentation' in 3rd person, and use these at planned times, then slip back. you can be clear you are doing this, and invite them to cooperate.

you can say 'I'd like us to imagine how Mrs X might have thought about this garden in the year XXXX' then do your bit, then become more informal and say 'that's how Mrs X might have viewed it, now do you have any questions'

As long as you don't start looking surprised when people have a sundial on thier wrist, scared of 'Dragons' when planes go over.


Find time in every day to look at your life and say; 'Well, it could be worse'



Kurt's uncle Bob.

James Bretlington
Posts: 73
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2008 5:29 pm
Location: Miami, Florida

Re: How do you get started?

Postby James Bretlington » Thu Jan 28, 2010 11:25 pm

Dave B wrote:As long as you don't start looking surprised when people have a sundial on thier wrist, scared of 'Dragons' when planes go over.


Oh Christ, please don't do that.... nothing annoys me more than that..... :crazy:



User avatar
Dave B
Post Knight
Posts: 1737
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2005 9:34 pm
Location: Cheshire
Contact:

Re: How do you get started?

Postby Dave B » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:46 am

'Tell me forsooth, what is this Disc-Cow at which you speak of dancing.'

Although calling middle aged women in sundresses jezebells and insisting that they cover themselves properly can be fun, if they look like they have a sense of humour.


Find time in every day to look at your life and say; 'Well, it could be worse'



Kurt's uncle Bob.

User avatar
Chris, yclept John Barber
Posts: 337
Joined: Thu Aug 17, 2006 12:23 pm
Location: Sheffield
Contact:

Re: How do you get started?

Postby Chris, yclept John Barber » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:04 pm

channyg23 wrote:I... have decided on portraying an 18th century lady of gentle breeding, the land holders wife or sister. This way i can introduce many of the social niceties which seems to be the woman's lot in the 18th cenury as well explore thing like costume, fashion, social propriety and a woman's role in the household. Costume is also important, as the site is an 18th C terraced walk, three miles away from their house (!), I have decided on some kind of riding habit as they would have definitely approached the site on horse back or in a carriage...what do people think?



I agree that the land-holder's wife or sister is probably the best role for your position, but I would disagree about the riding-habit.

You need to think of why she has arrived at the place and how she travelled the three miles. If she was in a carriage, a riding-habit would be unnecessary and probably improper. If she arrived on horseback, obviously it would be appropriate, but why is she coming there? If she is merely stopping at the terrace for a picnic while out on a day's hunting or riding the estate and happens to meet the visitors there, fine. However, if she is expecting guests to be there she would prefer to receive them 'properly' attired, so she would use a carriage.

If you do go for the 'chance encounter' route, another alternative would be to apologise for your riding-habit and explain that you are here to discuss opening up the undergrowth in the 'Four Acres Wood' with the head gardener, and have chosen the riding-habit as practical 'working' clothes. (You could then drop out of character and explain the length of skirts and number of petticoats Lady C would be expected to wear if she was expecting guests.)



User avatar
Cat
Post Centurion
Posts: 704
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 9:40 pm
Location: A Muddy Field Near Tewkesbury

Re: How do you get started?

Postby Cat » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:39 pm

That and the fact that a well cut riding habit of this era is impossibly sexy...(There's one in the v and A which I covet.)


http://www.blood.co.uk. You get biscuits and everything.
A'Stanley A'Stanley!

User avatar
Phil the Grips
Absolute Wizard
Posts: 2000
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2005 2:01 pm
Location: Auld Reekie- capital village o' Jockland
Contact:

Re: How do you get started?

Postby Phil the Grips » Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:12 pm

Chris, yclept John Barber wrote: If you do go for the 'chance encounter' route, another alternative would be to apologise for your riding-habit...

If you want a provenance for such look to Domenico Angelo. He was out for a hack one day, followed by a fencing bout, only to arrive and find a lot of very posh people present at a very public event he thought would just be a couple of mates and peers having some fun. He apologised for his attire, explaining he was not expecting such company, and promptly fought several bouts in a row in his morning suit without geting touched.


--Angels also carry weapons--
http://www.blackboarswordsmanship.co.uk/


Return to “General History”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests