For my position at Sovereign Hill I wear 1850’s costume on most days. It’s still something I get a real kick out of, even when it drags in the mud and makes walking in tight places really difficult.
Unfortunately, I am so often in costume yet out of character. Because I take modern style workshops for school groups I can only slip into character for a few lines before having to revert to a modern manner to explain something or manage the group dynamics. I do enjoy the teaching, and sharing fun, interesting or squeamish facts with the students is often best done out of character so I can relate it to their experiences. But, some of my most memorable and enjoyable experiences in work have been in character.
I personally love history. Living it, therefore, is really special. It also reinvigorates a love for what I do and reengages me with the subject I teach in a powerful way. It is an especially powerful experience when doing it alongside other people who are in character and trying to make the most out of our interaction. One of my favourite days at work was the time my colleagues, Eloise and Claire, and I had an afternoon tea in the ladies parlor and discussed the scandalous content of Lola Montez’s book on beauty.
Today I had the great privilege to work (although ‘play’ might be the more appropriate term in this instance) with Mark Wallis from Past Pleasures in the UK. He is visiting for the International Museum Theatre Alliance Conference next week and has spent some time training our interpreters. Today, he took on the character of a journalist from the London Times covering the gold rush in Victoria. It was a real thrill to play alongside such an enthusiastic and accomplished interpreter.
We took a stroll up the Main Street and through the diggings. It was great to watch him interact with visitors and interject during our activations (short pieces of interpretive theatre). Before long he had me dancing, something I have never done at work before. It was great fun and the visitors were delighted – we even got a round of applause.
This really is the best sort of professional development.