"First person" re-enactors

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"First person" re-enactors

Post by nutmeg_bec »

I was just wondering whether any/how many people in the tudor/stuart section employ the use of first person, and whether you portray a recognisable character from history (king, queen, courtier, privateer etc etc). I'd love to try this, and wondered where to start (other than the costume - I've got a pictoral reference for this). Thanks muchly! Bec :)

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Post by m300572 »

Once you have picked your character you need to know as much as possible about the things that would have been of concern to that person (so for a courtier you need to find out about the main political events of the day) as well as the details of everyday life - and be prepared for the really difficult/awkward questions (or the smartass who speaks period English to you if you can't speak the appropriate dialect. Its also worth develping a strategy for dropping out of character to answer questions that you can't in first person (can be simple things like a mop asking where the loo is) and then dropping back into character.
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Post by Tamsin Lewis »

Kentwell is first person

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Post by Mark Griffin »

Both answers hold merit. I tend to treat first person as being in a play with a very loose script. It is of course impossible to fully immerse yourself in a chacter and give a totally 'authentic' presentation, no-one would understand you and you would have such a back story to create your brain would go pop! Couple with the fact that you are in a 21st century playing field it also means that you are always going to have difficulty relating to people. Of course you can converse easily with fellow performers, especially have you have rehearsed but I find a good first step is learn social etiquette, manners and social graces then talk about what you would do anyway. People want to know about where people are from, what they do and other 'small talk'.

Most modern situations can be translated easily. Think of various office water cooler chat and fit it into a period setting. Then alter the syntax and see if there are any more appropriate period words that can be used, as long as they are not ones used primarily for formal communications such as writing. people do not talk how they write letters is a simper way of putting it.

If you are doing it for fun/free (I'm a paid professional in the feild, but there are plenty of hobbyists who do it in a professional manner) you can ramble on about most stuff for a client will often have an adgenda for you, a reason for that character, be it a noble person, artisan or just a man/woman in the street to be interacting with the public. Its hard to stage something that is not to obvioulsy staged and scripted but if you are there to get over some points it will give you the parameters of your performance. And its perfectly ok to say 'I don't know sir/mistress' if you get thrown a curve ball. Knock the problem on the head instead of going off at an uncomfortable tangent trying to excuse a modernism or a question your period character would not understand.

Many people fail by looking as if they are thinking of what to say next. You don't do it in real life so try and give the impression that the flow of information is going from brain to mouth without any thought or filters. Its bloomin hard (especially if a mop is being a pain) but can work well when you pull it off. I have seen some presentations given in first person where you could see the cogs in the performers mind grinding very slowly indeed, it leads to a pretty painful presentation.

The safest way is to do it as a speech or light hearted lecture. Acknowledge the audience (whether in your period circle or mops) and belt it out. Only ask questions where the answers are going to be limited and you can pre-empt them.

Hope that helps!

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Post by frances »

Dear Nutmeg,

Tudor/Stuart is one of the most easily done first person. Think the Bible or Shakespeare. Then think yourself into the character - how do you do things in those days, who are your friends and relations. Then just gossip away as though you were chatting to your best friend. Easy. Most mops will love to just listen to what you have to say and be pleased you have spoken to them. I have found just calling them 'good mistress', or 'young sir' and bidding them 'good day' stops them in their tracks and enables you to talk about what you are doing, what you are wearing, etc etc.

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Post by auldMotherBegg »

First person can be hard to stick to, and the greetings suggested above are great for catching the interest of passersby. When speaking with MOP's, I have found that by asking (in a reasonably understandable kind of middle-english) a visitor looking at my food display where they buy their food... and they try to tell you. You can answer them with questions like, 'What is a 'su-per-market? Do you mean the Corn Exchange?' and talk about where your food comes from.

You can ask them what their clothes are made of. (ie. 'What manner of worm doth make that silk?' about synthetics.) Speak about your own clothes, and compare them to theirs. Be amazed by their innovations like pockets, and zippers, but be careful not to use C21 language easily. A fun thing to do is point at women wearing trousers or shorts, and comment on their brazen-ness in dressing as a man... you can chastise a husband for letting his good lady wife be seen in public that way. (Always good for a laugh!)

You could tell them what you do during your long winter's evenings, for instance. (Carding wool, spinning, weaving, making/mending clothing, story-telling around the fire). Ask them what they do in theirs... again, act amazed, and of course, you are horrified as you've never heard of "Tel-e-vi-sion? It does sound like blasphemy to me!".

This kind of approach is especially good with kids. You can see them moving from the kind of scathing contempt only a 10-year-old can muster, to beginning to believe you are really from the era you are presenting, bit by bit. Magic! I even had one little girl curtsy to me as she left the encampment!

If do you get a total smart-a*se (old or young), then you can always point at something like their sunglasses, and scream, "The dark-eyed one! Surely 'tis the Devil himself!" and run away to get away from them...

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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

I hate this meself. I have seen so many times at so many events done badly by so many people from Stone Age to WW1. A plane flies over and they are all making eyes at the evil dragon that does fly over us. Please, for the love of God don't do it! It fools no one!

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Post by ViscontesseD'Asbeau »

I'm the other way. Don't like third person, it's too school teachery - been there, dunnit as a job, don't want to do it in my spare time, thank you. :lol: As a teacher I'm pretty sure people are either born naturals (very rare) or trained well and many re-enactors are neither.

Someone who does first person badly will probably do third person badly, too. We're not all great communicators and the worst are the people who think they are, whether they do first or third.

Something we're developing is this - I was doing genealogy (another hobby!) and about to do a little local thing in the same place my ancestors were from (coincidentally) and it occured to me it might be fun to 'be' a real person - not the usual boring stuff, military or 'historical' figures, (I cringe when I see generals or queens, must admit) - and not a vague, unspecified person, or someone just defined by their job.... Hit on ths idea of doing an ordinary person who really lived and died, and was your ancestor, with a birth date, a marriage date, kids born to them and a death date. Portraying the Tudor/Stuart wo/man in the street who never gets a name check, or made real.

I just hit on the idea at the time of the event so haven't developed it yet, but am hoping to do it over the winter. Easy if you know their station in life as that gives you something to research, and just keeps it interesting for the jaded. So when I do Tudor/Stuart I'm developing a yeoman farmer's wife, the difference being she has a 'real' name and I know every inch of the area my family farmed for generations, so it's not 100% an academic exercise. We still live in the parish where we have Tudor ancestors, but I realise that's unusual these days and for most re-enactors doing this, you might end up with someone from a place hundreds of miles away you've never been to, or an ancestor with a job that bores you or is not something you want to research! But for me it's a valid option, so something I'm going to have a bash at!

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Post by gregory23b »

"Someone who does first person badly will probably do third person badly, too."

There is no apparent relationship between the ability to act and to deliver information interestingly and clearly. Not all actors are great at delivering information when not acting and certainly not all good public speakers are good at acting - they are very different activities and not necessarily mutually exclusive or inclusive. I know a fair few that are good at 3rd person and good at delivering information and yet some who are best suited to sticking to a script.

Horses for courses, eh what?

" not the usual boring stuff, military or 'historical' figures, (I cringe when I see generals or queens, must admit)"

Ditto, it goes back to that past lives thread, somehow everyone was cleopatra, Dick the poo and not some ordinary bod. I find the lives of real people much more interesting than the elevated. If I had to represent an ancestor I would be somehwere on Lewis and down in Southern Europe, although the jockular lot may have some English bits, I might do a bit of digging.

Do you know what I have to do for Scotland? in terms of digging up data?
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Post by ViscontesseD'Asbeau »

I wouldn't confuse first person with 'acting'. First person is doing, rather than talking about, simply doing what you do and you may or may not talk depending on the context and the situation. You don't have to play act to be in character, although sometimes it happens that to do so might work, or be appropriate. A lot depends on the people you're with and whether you can spark off them, too. And there are definite different ethoses in different periods - I've found people I can spark off really well with, with 17thC as there is a long tradition of it there and people are up for it - it even works with people you don't know, but have stumbled across in a LH camp. Try it with 15thC re-enactors, a whole different story - they seem to be terrified of it. That background ethos is a huge factor, I think. It probably only works where people are used to it and don't poo their pants if you turn to them and say something 'in character' but just bluffly join in!

And there's times when you can't di first person at all. But where you can.... I spose it's my 'teacher gene' but I get bored of the 'they did this' routine - part of me thinks just get on with it. Also there are limitations, obviously like some direct questions and some contexts demand you react in a different way.

Obviously you're in pedagogue mode if doing a school party, but even then you can have some pretty focused criteria in mind and like a good teacher, won't overload them with facts - which untrained enthusiasts tend to do. Hit the odd attainment target and maybe even get say three ideas over, and give them some hands-on if you can and that's it, really.

I've been involved in LH where I've seen some pretty elaborate stuff explained rather than demonstrated - and that's what I'm getting at. And those people who looked it up on the internet the night before but come out with a 20 minute peroration about whatever it is without actually doing it... And those third person ones who are actually demonstrating a process, but start to give you the history of certain aspects 200 years before/after the period in question, for no apparent reason and unprovoked by a question.

I'm no actor and leave that to those who are - I do what I do and people can watch or go elsewhere - I'm not going to give them the gab about my craft but if they ask I'll answer and send them away happy, hopefully. I've seen other people who are great at the play acting and I'd rather watch that anyday than be lectured and bombarded with info, which can come over as enthusiastic but sometimes be misjudged for the particular audience, overloaded with factoids, &c. Nothing more cringeworthy than the 'pedagogue manquee'.

A lot (and I don't say all) third person seems to come over as being from folk who are a bit up their own bottoms, to put it politely. Monkey do, not monkey say. :lol: :lol:

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Post by Hraefn »

ViscontesseD'Asbeau wrote:A lot (and I don't say all) third person seems to come over as being from folk who are a bit up their own bottoms, to put it politely. Monkey do, not monkey say.
I've had the same problems with people 'doing' first, unless done really well,(Which I've found very rarely) to me they come across pompous and as you say up their own rectums, add to that the over proliferation of 'Ayes''Indeed Sir/Madams''Well spake etc' and it gets right up me nose. But is someone doing a period job dressed in period clothes and talking about it as a modern person using modern reference points first or third, they are taking on and doing a role but no pretending to be someone from the(insert century here)
Both have their place but but from my POV its the presentation not the perspective(be it 1st 3rd or one of the many points inbetween) that makes the difference.
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Post by frances »

I've been on both ends of first person interpretation. I have been excrutiatingly embarrassed when done by a young actor who had learnt his lines, almost. He was not at home in his skin or his clothes and it was awful. I have also been greatly entertained by first person. Then again a few weeks ago I was at a house where I wanted some information from a first-person laundry-maid. And it was really silly - I was asking in 21st century language, she answered in 18th century, then I asked for more details and so on. In the end she gave up and we had a civilised conversation in 21st century language.

When I have done first-person myself at corporate events, I have tackled it by just chatting to the public, much as I would to a friend today. I have enjoyed myself and the mops have laughed a lot.

Maybe we are not only talking about the difference between first and third person, but maybe differences between conversation with, and lecturing to, the public in each of these. In talking to a group of people I have had success with a combination, such as "In my day we did it like this". This has the effect of making people laugh, and yet not putting me in the situation of having to use odd language.

I must agree with having negative thoughts about interpreters pretending not to know what a plane is, and crossing themselves, and pretending not to understand 21st century concepts and so on. I think this is quite rude and makes one feel that the re-enactor is putting down the mop. I believe that it has grown up in only certain re-enactor venues; another re-enactorism that is not representative of the whole.

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Post by Scottish Lady »

As I've said before on various threads to do with this subject, 1st person is fine if you have the confidence and ability to carry it off in a competant manner. I've seen more cringe worthy than really good stuff, (never been to Kentwell, so can't comment on how that works), I know it's not for me.

However, having an English accent, and being in a Scottish regiment, I often get asked to explain why I'm there. I've used my own background and embellished it a bit. I was brought up on an estate in Wiltshire, my father was grieve, (foreman), with Scottish connections, my mother a seamstress, and I was a companion to the daughter of the house. When the daughter of the house married, I went with her to her new home in the borders. Members of my present regiment were billeted in the area, and being an educated, well bred person, even if not strictly a 'lady', caught the attention of the regimental 'meenister', who I married.

In real life, the manor house was built for Sir Walter Raleigh, my dad was grieve and came from Inverness, my mum a seamstress/housekeeper, and I was friendly with the manor house family. Moved to Scotland and met the 'meenister' through friends.

It can be useful to have a story like this to explain to MOP's why I'm educated, have sewing and housekeeping capabilities, and am in my present position in the regiment. Also, because it is so close to reality I have no difficulty in remembering it.
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Post by Foxe »

I think the choice of first or third person is very much down to personal preference (either of yourself or of the event sponsor). Speaking personally I try to do first person with other reenactors in public, third in private, and first person as much as possible with the public. I say as much as possible because I think there are two important things to remember: first, no matter how good you are the public are never going to actually believe that you are an historical person; and secondly because there are some questions that can't be answered in first person so the choice is either to lapse into third or to send the person away dissatisifed. I'm reminded of a small group I was in for a very short time who insisted 100% on first person - I actually got chastised by the group leader for "dropping character" when a MOP asked me (as an armourer circa 1600) about bayonets and when they came into use. I could either feign ignorance and be no bloody use to him, or drop character and answer his question in a helpful and informative way.

If you are going to go for first person I've got to agree with Marcus up there. Going on about planes being dragons and asking if there's a little man inside the MOP's camera who paints very very fast just makes you look dumb.

But the real key is KEEP IT SIMPLE, and stick where possible to what you know. Except when I'm playing an actual historical person I tend to play myself in an historical setting. Whether I'm Edwarde Fox the Elizabethan seaman, Ned Foxe the Stuart seaman/pirate, or Mister Fox, master's mate of HMS Antelope, 1805, I'm always born in Portsmouth, late 20s, more or less middle class, literate (to a greater or lesser degree) etc. When doing post 1750 events I even went to Portsmouth Grammar School. Also, keep it in reserve, but keep it to yourself. How much do you learn about the MOP's life history in the casual conversation? Of course, when they ask or seem interested it's good to have it there, but 99.9% they just want to know about the here and now - who you are, what you're doing.

It's very easy to make up really good life stories, but like all lies, you'll get tangled up in it in the end, and frankly the public really won't care if you're the eighth son of an obscure Earl who was spirited away to the Continent by your evil step mother where you joined the retinue of... yawn.
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Post by Grymm »

First person..... http://www.henrytudor.co.uk
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Post by nix »

i no im a bit later and earlier in periods than this lot , but i do it in medi, dark age and civil war, and it works, have seen it work espeacly well in elizibethan, and the huggits( and the rest of there group) (who im sure do tudors) do a perticly fine diplay.
the marry rose museam portsmouth are quite good when you catch them on a good day, but every day, 9hrs at a time brakes them down and weres them out.
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Post by Tuppence »

first person - yeeeeuuuurggghh.

only ever seen it done badly, unless it's treated as Mark says, as a play.

but then only seen re-enactment done badly unless it's treated as a form of theatre - suspension of disbelief and all that.

and no matter how pompous you get about it, first person re-enacting is acting. it's no more and no less.

Unless you're trying to kid me that you actually live in that character peranently. If you put the character on for certain circumstances and take it off for your everyday life, you're acting.
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Post by the real lord duvet »

i do first person reinactment but not when i'm talking to the public, or any one else for that matter.

the voyeur does third person reinactment. or second person. it depends on which personality is in control.

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