What is a Reenactor?Reenactors recreate history by portraying the look, actions and lives of a person from a particular time period of history.
Who Can Become a Reenactor?Just about anyone with an interest in reenactment can become a reenactor. Children can usually even participate, although most reenactment groups have a minimum age (12 or 13 is common) for children to be allowed in more dangerous roles - such as on the battlefield. Most reenactment organizations also won't allow children under 16 to bear arms. If you choose an active reenactment role, you'll need to be in good health - capable of the physical activity and lack of everyday comforts that are inherent in reenacting. Most reenactors are everyday people from all walks of life, with ages ranging from 16 to people in their sixties.
What to Expect From ReenactingReenacting for many is a serious, but fun, event. Most people take their roles seriously, and pride themselves on representing history as accurately as possible. Some people do take the "authenticity" to an extreme, but most groups welcome anyone with an interest.
Reenacting does require a commitment, however, in both time and resources. Reproduction clothing can cost several hundred dollars, and reproduction period rifles as much as $1000. Reenactment, appropriately called "living history," also means living under the same conditions encountered during the past. This can mean everything from uncomfortable clothes and terrible food, to inclement weather and a poor excuse for a bed. Hard-core reenactors give up all amenities of modern life, from deoderant to modern wristwatches. Reenactment also takes time - but this can be as little as a 2-3 hour event once or twice a year, to a half-dozen three-day weekend encampments.
How to Get Started With ReeenactingYou've probably thought to yourself that reenacting sounds like fun, but you're just not sure about committing yourself due to time, money, and lack of know-how. Don't let that stop you! Most reenactment groups are very welcoming to new people, and will show you the ropes and even outfit you until you can gradually aquire your own kit. In other words, you can try it out and see how you like it.
Just so you understand a bit of what you're getting into with reenacting, here are some basics of becoming a reenactor:
Choose a Time Period & Location
What period of history most grabs your interest? Did you have ancestors who participated in a particular war? Do you have a passion for ancient Rome, medieval fashion, or Colonial America and the Salem Witch Trials.
Find a Reenactment Group
Time and place generally work together, so while you're picking your time period, you will generally have a certain location in mind as well. Most people choose a reenactment group that operates fairly close to home - at least within a day's drive.
Reenactment groups and societies can be found all over the world, although they are especially active in the U.S., UK, Germany, Sweden, Canada and Australia. Check your local newspaper or reenactment Web sites for listings of upcoming reenactment events in your area. Most large re-enactment events take place outdoors, so spring through fall are very active times of the year for the majority of these groups. Attend a few such reenactment events and talk to members of the involved groups to learn more about their reenactment focus and activities.
Choose a Persona
In reenactment, a persona is the character and role that you choose to portray. The persona is sometimes referred to as an impression. Depending upon your reenactment scenario, this may be a real individual, or a fictional one who could have lived during your time period of interest. Think about who you are in real-life -- or the person you secretly want to be -- and translate that to an individual who lived during your time period of interest. The majority of reenactors choose to be soldiers, but even in a military reenactment group there are other characters, such as wives, camp followers, surgeons, tinkers and sutlers (merchants). The persona you select should have some personal significance to you.
Research Your Persona
Once you've chosen a time period and character, you need to learn everything you can - from the way they dressed and ate, to their manner of speech, cultural beliefs, and social interactions. Immerse yourself in the time period by reading books and primary source documents related to the area, and the type of person you've chosen to portray.