Saturday, April 26, 2014

Living History Reenactments--sign me up!

20,000 people in this country have dedicated themselves to the hobby of Civil War reenactments. They vary in the level of zeal they bring to this enterprise. The bearded fellow in the upper right considers himself a hard core living historian. Among other things this means he soaks his buttons in urine, sews every stitch of his own clothing to conform to garments of 1860-1865, and spends untold hours perfecting his lying dead on the battlefield. The day of this picture he was working on his bloating as a corpse plus the rigor mortis of his hands. He brings method acting to this commitment. He derides anyone who brings less to this enterprise, calling them farbs, or "far from being authentic." If you would like to read about these people in detail go here.

Just to show how warped my mind is, when I first began reading about these people it was because I found this hobby ridiculous. But as I kept reading I found myself not only thinking it less and less ridiculous but my mind began mushrooming the entire concept.  I mean, why stop there? 

Thus my mind began to roam until I had a short list of much better American events to reenact and thereby commemorate. After all, why not pick events which have had a far greater effect upon our baby boomer lives? Here are some of the events which I think have much more appeal than the Civil War.

My first candidate is the JFK assassination. My fellow boomers and I can all remember where we were when we got the news. We also remember hovering by the tv set until we saw Oswald get shot live on camera. I am now plotting how to stage this. Of course, there are way too many of us to all head to Dallas to reconstruct a motorcade plus it would cost a fortune.  I think we should rent acreage instead and construct a facsimile of Dallas on that day. The Texas Book Depository is gone anyway so why not just erect a false front of it instead? We do have pictures of it for our set designers to use. Thanks to the online world we have photos of Jackie's pink dress, the convertible used in the motorcade and the grassy knoll. Hell, we have pictures of JFK lying dead in the hospital!  We could actually make a festival of this and the people who attended as our audience could all stand in the crowd watching the motorcade and merge into the living theater concept. At first I thought I might like to direct this but it is way too big a job for me.  No, I think I will work on costumes and just be part of the crowd for my acting duties. Although if I could be allowed to act in drag, I really think I could play a heck of a Zapruder taking movie footage.

The JFK assassination is potentially such a monumental pageant that my immediate follow up ideas seemed pallid in comparison. Other '60s assassinations, like MLK or RFK, lacked the sheer attention to detail we boomers could bring to JFK's. Moving right along I briefly considered the 1968 Democratic Convention riots in Chicago.  But what would we depict other than demonstrators and police clashing in the streets? There just wasn't enough there.

Closing out the '60s I considered the Manson murders. We'd have two houses, Sharon Tate's and the LaBiancas'. We'd have a cast of murderers and victims but not anyone else. It would be extremely gory and bloody.  Nah, it was no good either.
I was getting frustrated and who wouldn't?  The problem with the JFK assassination is that it had everything. 

My mind zoomed ahead and I thought of 9/11 and the Boston Marathon Massacre. They were both pretty dramatic.  We'd have to use scaled down models of course. Perhaps miniatures of the World Trade Center with model airplanes operated by remote control crashing into the towers.  Or perhaps with a closed off Boston street erupting in explosions. I don't think our crowd participants would be in any greater danger than when they shoot off the cannons for the Civil War ones.

But were these events too close in time?  9/11 happened almost fifteen years ago but is that enough to be reenacting it as history? For the Boston Marathon Massacre, it might seem a bit weird reenacting an event that occurred less than two years ago but again one hesitates to overlook the dramatic possibilities.  We'd need people good with explosives for either of these but there are all those Boomer veterans we could utilize. We have heroic firefighters, police, and medical personnel to depict in both Boston and New York which is always a crowd pleaser.

Finding the right guys to play the murderous Boston brothers would be pivotal plus the boat as the hideaway would have to be accurate down to the last detail. Costuming would be easy for both as people wear today what they wore then.  This is a real benefit of staging fresher history.  I bet we could buy the pressure cookers for the bomb making on eBay.

Now that I have really thought this through with all of the dramatic possibilities, how could I have wondered that 20,000 Americans couldn't find something better to do with their leisure time. Just give me one good reason why I should continue making art works, writing blog entries, going to the pool, reading books, interacting with present day people for present day events and so forth, when I could be closing out my days by reenacting the minutiae of my history.

Because it would be ridiculous? 
Well, there is that.

P.S. One of my friends just thought I was about to go do the above, especially try and get the JFK one off the ground and play Zapruder. The above was a satire.  I will not be doing any of the above. If you hear I am, please commit me.

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