Introduction by Historyland:
The world of interpretive history is sometimes confusing and mysterious, they tend to be the people who know all about Historyland. And this week hopefully we will get a little sneak peek into the effort and dedication that goes in to creating Historical impressions that spark our imaginations. A podcast called Helping History Happen with Allison Pettengill recently featured an interview with Historical Interpreter Kyle Jenks in an episode called “Creating High Quality Historical Interpretation” that… well I’ll let the guest fill in the details:
Creating High Quality Historical Interpretation:
Introduction by the podcast host, Allison Pettengill:
First person Interpretation is diving into their entire worldly milieu from the time that they were born till the time that you are portraying them. Not only knowing their life but every single person they interacted with in their entire life.” Kyle Jenks
Our Guest today is Kyle Jenks who is a native upstate New Yorker. After spending the greater part of his career in the Health and Wellness industry, Kyle decided to turn back the clock and script a new life path. He is a Writer, Producer, Director, Actor, historical interpreter of our fourth President James Madison and historical interpreter of his historically inspired colonial personage Douglas McKenna.
Kyle has been a reenactor of the Colonial American Period since 2003. In 2007 he began performing as Douglas McKenna. Kyle began researching Outdoor Historical Drama in 2010, and in 2012 he premiered Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama in Mohawk, NY. In 2015 he began interpreting our fourth President Mr. James Madison.
Kyle found history late in life when he found historical reenacting as a hobby. He decided to pursue high-quality first person interpretation as a career and dove into it. We discuss the various aspects of our lives that either pen us in or give us freedom in our life paths. There are very few people who have a true passion for their life goals; it is something that is hard to find. Kyle strives to have a legacy in educating people thru historical performance.
Kyle talks about getting into the hobby of reenacting and how consuming it can be of your time. The commitment of the people who work and play in history is an amazing thing. Kyle was inspired by his fellow reenactors to become a self-taught historian with a full depth of knowledge on his subject matter. Kyle works to maintain a conscientious commitment to striving for an impression that is as accurate as humanly possible.
It is a challenge to do a full impression well and is something that is an ever evolving process. There are many different things to study when preparing a first person impression. The facts of their life are not enough one must also study how people spoke, acted, dressed as well as many other factors in their lives. For Kyle his impression of James Madison is always evolving, each performance is geared to a different topic and pulls him into new research topics.
Kyle and I discuss the modern influence on historical interpretation. We strive for perfection and accuracy in our interpretations. The blending of the modern and the historical as we see in shows like Hamilton are good at reaching a new audience. Kyle works to keep the language of his plays more accurate; he hopes that the adage ‘the truth is stranger than fiction’ will attract people’s interests.
Kyle uses letters and other primary sources as the source of most of his script because that is the best evidence of how people spoke at that time. I discussed the TED Radio Hour podcast episode Spoken and Unspoken and how written and spoken language differ. The evolution of language is a huge factor when looking back in history and creating a historical impression. The modern attitude towards things like note taking, formal writing and drawing have all shifted dramatically due to technologies influence. Part of historical interpretation is shifting your mental attitude towards written words, drawings and memories.
Kyle discusses the history of James Madison and his work developing Madison as a full character. It is a process to fully develop an interpretation of a whole person. Interpretation is an art form that allows the audience to have a more natural connection with the historical person you bring to life. Kyle loves working to create a theatrical experience for his audience that is fun and educational. He has studied many forms of theater and education methods to help he develop his methods. Kyle works to present the humanity of the people he is interpreting.
“Well, you find him. And then you grow him and nurture him, and then present him to the public so that they understand fully this man, not just partially.”
Podcast can be listened to here. http://helpinghistoryhappen.com/024/
If you would like to contact Kyle or Helping History Happen please follow the links below.
(Many thanks to Kyle for being so kind as to share his work with Historyland, see you again for another Adventure. Josh.)