Monday, March 14, 2016

First Person weekend

So my weekend was extremely busy. I had two shows at the Historical Society and one Sunday at the Kelton House.
Some people are curious as to what First Person Interpretation is and what I do. In short, what I do is either pick (or get assigned) a specific person or a subject and I research and create a monologue and prepare for a Q&A session (my biggest fear) afterwards.
Last summer I was doing the War Widow program and someone from the Kelton House asked if I'd be interested in doing a similar program there. It was a monologue about the cost of the Civil War on the families left behind. It is not a happy tale to tell, especially considering that most of the films and books were written about the brave men that fought the war. I found it heartbreaking and difficult to really see some of the effects the war had that were not well-documented. I felt I had a duty to try and speak for these women and the struggles they went through after their men left.
Fast forward a year or so and I was terrified of sitting in front of a paying audience of history buffs. There always seems to be one person who knows so much more about the subject and had spent years studying it. I am always afraid of what I call "History Heckler". They tend to wait until the Q&A phase to tell you you said the wrong thing, or omitted something they felt was crucial. But the first guest to enter, to my eternal surprise and joy was my High School History teacher and the reason I started volunteering at OHS all those years ago in High School. I was rather overcome and extremely happy to see her there and it was quite the honor to have had her make it out to see me. And then five of my OHS friends came to see me and my sweet co-worker Deborah. I was entirely moved and I think that there were some tears in the audience too. 

I mentioned to Doreen (the aforementioned history teacher) afterwards that I feel I missed my calling as a teacher, but that through programs like the Kelton House and the Historical Society, I get the chance to be an actor and a teacher and it is such great fun as well.
There's an excitement in sharing a First Person Interpretation experience that started when I used to go and see those programs when I was young. I have amazing memories that were burned into my mind as a child. A way to bring history to me in a way that was informative and real. Breathing life into history gives such a visceral understanding of what being alive during a certain period was like and bringing it off the dry page. I could sit for hours and listen to an interpreter tell me about "their life" or watch them making tin cups, iron nails, or taper candles.
It is my hope that as long as I am able, I will have opportunity to give this breath to history. That there will hopefully always be space in Columbus to give our ancestors the chance to live again for a short time so we can learn about their hopes and struggles. It is my wish, that the stories I tell have meaning and will create the memories for others that will forever change their ideas of what the word "history" means.


  1. Love what you do Traci! I need to come out and see some of your presentations some time! Do you have a schedule of when you do them?

    And sometimes, I think that Q&A sessions can be reframed as discussion with some of those heckler types. Maybe a chance for both sides to learn. That's what I used to do when I was doing the bicycle training.

    1. Yeah, when I get a HH, I use it as a learning opportunity. IF they tell me something I don't know, or ask a question I don't have the answer for, I make sure to research, document and then add it to the program if I feel it's helpful.

      It's still a little nervewracking. But definitely a learning experience.