VALLEY STORY (A 40TH ANNIVERSARY SERIES)
The first few months of 1977 were busy. We incorporate as a not-for-profit, we gathered a board, we got an accountant, we started researching the Ohio-Erie Canal, we wrote scenarios and we got a cast!
Incorporating, getting a board of trustees and an accountant, while big steps, were pretty much normal stuff! But the rest As I mentioned, Living History programs at the time, were pretty rare. Basically, the only one we had seen was The People Of 76! Luckily, it was a good program and gave us a concrete example of what needed to happen.
Saying ... we started researching the Ohio-Erie Canal, we wrote scenarios is kind of an understatement. First, we had to figure out exactly WHAT a Living History program was and HOW we were going to do it!
After some research, the
basic answer to WHAT Living History program is was: Its different
to everyone! Yeah, not really helpful, right. But our investigation revealed
two main themes and techniques for these programs (in no particular order):
1. Most programs did not use an actual script. A scenario outline of events/activities was used and the actors went through these events in an improvisational manner. Interactions with the audience changed the outcome of any individual activity -- in the same way that the trader in the People Of 76 had to deal with the child and the bubble gum.
We chose to have our audience travel back in time. Once someone stepped into the Village it was whatever day we had established. All actors could not know ANYTHING beyond that date. So, if it was the day before bubble gum was invented, they couldnt know about the gum even though the year was right. The actors had to relate to the audience as if the audience members were living in that time with them. To the extent that if the conversation led to clothing, the actor would need to address the strangeness of the audiences clothing. (We did not encourage conversations about clothing, etc. in the Village as it took away from the REAL story of the canal.).
You can imagine that this could lead to all sorts of strange conversations in the vein of the Bubble Gum Kid and The Trader. Including, some not so convenient ones. For instance, if a child had to go to the bathroom and hed stepped into our Village, you couldnt exactly go up to a Canaler and ask where the bathroom was -- hed send you behind a tree if an outhouse wasnt in the vicinity! So we got around that by declaring on of our houses (the hotel) to be no-mans land -- it could be whatever year the audience member wanted it to be in that year. So if a mother asked the hotel proprietor where the bathroom was, she got a 1977 answer. If the audience wanted to continue some type of discussion in 1825, she could.
In any event, you probably
realize by now that preparing for this kind of show is waaaayyyy more
complicated than putting on a play like Odd Couple. We not
only had to research, the Ohio-Erie Canal specifically, but we had to
research the TIME PERIOD. Our actors had to be able to talk intelligently
about whatever the topic was, but do it within the reality
of the time period (What were their common forms of speech? What were
the attitudes of a particular topic -- say women speaking in public? What
items existed then and what items were actually available in that area
of the country?, etc. etc. etc.)
To be continued ...