It’s also doing something I used to do, which is a new one on me. I’ve never gone back to work at a place where I used to be employed. In some cases that was a condition … oh, let’s say requested by my former employer, right after they said not to let the door hit me in the “buttockular” area on the way out. But this time no such statements were made, the door remained open and here I am, walking back through it.
OK, enough fooling around. Here’s the gist of it: I was invited back (and accepted happily) to the Indiana Historical Society’s Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, which is far too many words. Let’s just call it the IHSEAMGIHC. No, wait. Let’s not. The History Center shall suffice.
I’ll be working in the center’s “You Are There” program, which I was privileged to be a part of at its inception back around 2008 or so. In it, visitors are taken back to a point in Indiana history where they interact with costumed interpreters – actors.
I’ll be an actor in an exhibit about the drafting of the Indiana Constitution back in 1816. I play Dennis Pennington, one of the delegates to the constitutional convention and by all accounts a pretty good guy, if I do say so himself. Myself. Whatever.
Trust me, as ways to make a living go, pretending to be an historical character is nice work, if you can get it. And now I’ve gotten it for the second time.
My first time around was in an exhibit about a 1945 grocery store in Terre Haute and I played the grocer, Ernest Zwerner. It was a ball. Although I must tell you being a costumed character in what amounts to a museum exhibit is not without its challenges.
Chief among these are the people who think they can get you to break character by saying something the character might find jarring, the most common being: “You know, in the future we’ll have things called cellular telephones that you can carry with you and use to talk to people on the other side of the world.”
For some reason, smart alecks think that is supposed to jolt someone living in 1945, or 1816, or wherever. I guess they think we’ll say something like, “Land-o-Goshen, don’t you be telling them tall tales in here, sonny boy” – it’s almost always a guy – “lessen you skeer the wimmenfolk.” Or some such.
My preferred response is simply to stare at the person as if they were an historical loon, creating an awkward silence that usually sees them stammering something about moving on to the next exhibit.
But that’s the exception. In my experience, most people want to play along and get right in the spirit of what you’re portraying, which is fun. And that’s the reason I accepted the new/old job in the first place. It’s a lot of fun.
So here I go, back into the work force and back into history. Wish me luck. But if you come in spouting that cellphone business, expect to get stared at, you loon.