Tivers, J  (2002)  'Performing Heritage: the use of live "actors" in heritage presentations', in Leisure Studies, 21: 187 - 200

This is about 'living history' presentations and the people who act in them. Key concepts for discussion are:

(a) Heritage. It is impossible to have an objective history, and heritage too varies according to the degree of interpretation involved and how it is experienced. For example,  'Heritage is history processed through mythology, ideology, nationalism, local pride, romantic ideas or just plain marketing into a commodity' (Schouten, cited by Tivers, 188). It is the use of history deployed in a market in the most general sense.

(b) Performance is a peculiar mixture of semiotics and politics, including the politics of identity. It uses fictional participants to author words and actions. Performances are always related to an audience. Performance can describe everyday activity as well  [Goffman], but performance in the special deliberate sense can be used as a chance to criticise words and actions far more extensively. Thus deliberate performances are self-reflexive, and offer a limited transparency. They can be used to examine  'socially and culturally sensitive issues' (Campbell, cited by Tivers 189).

Performance can even be the object of performance in post modern theatre. Life itself is performative in this sense too, as de Certeau indicates. Mass-media offer lots of opportunities and models of performance. There is also a widespread performativity in our society  [as in Lyotard's sense], while commentators have also pointed to the  'dramatisation'of social life  [not sure who is being referred to here, some postmodernist flavour to this, so maybe Baudrillard?].

Deliberate performance offers examples of  'restored behaviour... that which can be repeated, rehearsed and above all recreated' (Schechner, quoted by Carr 190). It is in this sense that Butler says that gender is performative  [well, drag acts are]. Performance involves both action and en-action: it is in this sense intertextual and self-reflexive. [What a shame none of this is really used in what follows! ].

Four case-studies of  'living history' are analysed, all instances where actors participate, not only by making fixed speeches in character. The techniques were first found in Stockholm then became popular in the USA and were reintroduced into Europe including the UK. There are many examples, both at heritage sites, and on the Web, where enthusiasts gather. Tivers observed the sites, then interviewed some of the actors, although some of them refused to come out of role. The focus of the study is on the motivations and experiences of the actors.

(a) Llancaiach Fawr, a stately home in South Wales. The locals take part as the cast. The intention of the site is educational, to portray the reality of 17th century domestic life. Emphasis is placed on historical accuracy. However, the actors playing the domestic servants are not always historically accurate nor are they devoted to interpretation. For example, they often reproduce current divisions, especially of gender. Nevertheless, L F does set out to challenge stereotypes of the 17th century.

(b) Kentwell Hall, where 16th century domestic life is recreated, both to educate the public and to popularise the site. However, the unpaid local actors are also keen on re-enactment itself, and enjoy trying to become Tudors. The visitors can be a distraction. The real audience is each other. Their goal is to act unconsciously in role. Again this process assists with a challenging kind of authenticity that can break stereotypes.

(c) Zuiderzeemuseum. Workers on the site include actors and those in modern dress. The actors making real effort to interpret life in Holland for us, including speaking English when there are English visitors about. They also make frequent comparisons with modern conditions.

(d) Warwick Castle. The guides are in costume but not in character. The emphasis again is on historical accuracy, and the actors come from a local medieval society. They are not concerned either with the commercial purposes of the sight nor with  [reflexive] re-enactment. As a result they offer a  'third person re-interpretation'.

Several other isolated examples cited, such as local millennium celebrations. Interestingly though, Shakespeare plays can also be seen as enacted heritage, with definite visible interpretations often offered. Other examples might include performers to queues at heritage sites  [the Vikings dressed and talking in character at Jorvik]; or members of historical re-enactment societies  [the appeal here is fantasy and escape, suggests Tivers, with lots of commitment but not very much critical analysis].

The studies show that there are considerable variations within performances. Heritage sites might be tourist destinations for visitors, but leisure sites for performers. The performers' interests may not be at all like those of management, for example with no particular interest or commerce. For performers, heritage may not be commodified (198). The desire for authenticity is shared, however, leading to the usual problems, such as the impossibility of authentic reconstructions of battlefields or hospitals  [Uzzel references]. Re-enactors tend to be highly committed to what they do, and aware of its limits. Participation can lead to questioning and critical reflections on the past, and to post-modern insights about performativity: in this sense, actors may gain an  'experience of heritage... which may contribute to a sense of identity and a better understanding of society, both past and present' (199).

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