Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Margo Jang, September 3, 2017

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Introducing Margo Jang, portraying a Regency period lady

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Partial Transcript: --this is an unrehearsed oral history interview for the Living History Oral History Project. My name is JD Carruthers. I have with me today, it's Margo--

Segment Synopsis: Margo Jang says she is portraying a generic Regency period lady in attire designed for a Jane Austen Festival. She briefly discusses the Regency Period. She refers to an event newspaper which states the event time period of 1790 to 1810. She says she might consider herself a reenactor or an interpreter depending on the event. She talks about her early interest in living history through attending the Ohio Renaissance Festival. She talks about a generic and fictitious Elizabethan person named Margaret Featherby she developed for the festival. She talks about playing a role as mistress of the aviary at the Tower of London in which role she uses her pet macaw. Jang says she also portrays a first person impression of Bess of Hardwick who was the Countess of Shrewsbury. She talks about portraying Bess at Hardwick Hall which was the countess's home in England. Jang says she portrayed this role as a volunteer. She talks about the living history program at Kentwell Hall in England, which she characterizes as among the best existing. She says the site hosts about 250 Elizabethan reenactors participating in their Elizabethan Days for two weeks each summer. She talks about the challenges of transporting costume elements such as hoop skirts through customs during international travel.

Keywords: Fair at New Boston; First person voice; Hoop skirts; Living history events; Parrots; Periodization; Persona; Regency Period

Subjects: Austen, Jane, 1775-1817.; Hardwick Hall (England); Living History Farms (Museum); Macaws.; Renaissance fairs; Shrewsbury, Elizabeth Hardwick Talbot, Countess of, 1527?-1608.; Tower of London (London, England)

Hyperlink: Kentwell Hall
00:08:15 - Living history in England / Researching living history

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Partial Transcript: Well, let me ask you, how does the reenactment movement in England or, or anywhere else you visited compare to what we have here in the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Jang compares the U.S. living history movement to that of England. She says the periods most often represented in the U.S. are the colonial, Revolutionary and New Republic periods which are featured at sites such as Colonial Williamsburg, Plimoth Plantation, and Old Sturbridge Village. She agrees that living history in the U.S. often incorporates a military theme but notes that the movement in England also often portrays military themes such as the Wars of the Roses. Jang talks about critical elements for successful living history interactions including proper dress, accent and training. She says her own training began with her research as an English faculty at Northern Kentucky University.

Keywords: Periodization; Plimoth Plantation; Research

Subjects: Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Va.); Great Britain--History--Wars of the Roses, 1455-1485.; Old Sturbridge Village.

00:11:23 - Living history in higher education

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Partial Transcript: Well as--uh, uh, one of the things I'm interested in learning about, um, living history is, there's a lot of uh, presentation that's geared towards, uh, either school age or--uh, either primary or secondary school age or public...

Segment Synopsis: Jang talks about how she helped develop the use of living history at Northern Kentucky University in collaboration with Dr. James A. Ramage. She said she made living history presentations with an Elizabethan theme to the English major student group to promote interest in studying William Shakespeare. She developed a William Shakespeare birthday event which was held regularly at NKU for 25 years which featured students in Elizabethan costume reciting lines from Shakespeare around campus. She talks about the Ohio Renaissance Festival hosting student days. She discusses a comparison of the Fair at New Boston which conducts a juried review of food and costumes for authenticity to the Ohio Renaissance Fair where authenticity fluctuates. She talks about the Society for Creative Anachronism which she says is important in conducting and sharing research on historical lifestyles. She talks about an annual meeting of the SCA at Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. She says the SCA generally covers the Medieval period and includes European, Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. She says membership in SCA involves choosing a persona archetype and developing that persona, but that the persona cannot be a real historical person.

Keywords: Authenticity; Dr. James A. Ramage; Ohio Renaissance Festival; Persona

Subjects: Renaissance fairs; Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.; Society for Creative Anachronism; Vikings.

00:18:16 - First and third person voices / Gender and cultural diversity in living history

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Partial Transcript: One of the things I've, uh, studied, uh, uh, or, uh, uh, found in my research is that there is differences in presentation and interpretation a, as far as voice...

Segment Synopsis: Jang says she can portray Bess of Hardwick in first person voice, but adds that many living history practitioners use Basic Fair English, which is a form of Elizabethan English modified so modern listeners can understand the first person dialect. She talks about the racial diversity of the area in history and how that is represented by living history. She talks about the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin, which she says is a highly accurate representation of a royal court. She discusses the Guild of St. George at Bristol, which has strict regulation over living history presentations by its members. She describes an invitation to join the Guild of St. George as an honor and that the living history presentations are very accurate. She says the Ohio Renaissance Festival goes through cycles of relative accuracy.

Keywords: Accuracy; Authenticity; Basic Fair English; First person voice; Historical realism; Ohio Renaissance Festival; Persona; Third person voice

Subjects: Bristol Renaissance Faire; Gender and society; Guild of St. George.; Renaissance fairs; Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.

00:25:32 - Social values across time in living history presentations

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Partial Transcript: One of the things that is difficult to address is the question of, uh, the difference in values between different time periods that the c--that what would have been considered a correct attitude with respect to either gender or race or culture a hundred years, two hundred years, three hundred years ago is different...

Segment Synopsis: Jang talks about the different outlooks on society and social roles comparing Elizabethan times to contemporary times. She talks about the history of her Elizabethan persona Bess of Hardwick and the complicated system of inheriting property with respect to gender. She talks about how Bess improved her social position through a series of four well-conceived marriages.

Keywords: Lady in waiting; Political correctness

Subjects: Cavendish, William, Sir, 1505?-1557; Chain of being (Philosophy); Chatsworth (England); Dowry.; Education.; Gender and society; Primogeniture.; Shrewsbury, Elizabeth Hardwick Talbot, Countess of, 1527?-1608.

00:36:21 - English history

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Partial Transcript: This is--we're getting into an area of English history I'm only vaguely aware of, not as well versed in, but yeah, I understand.

Segment Synopsis: Jang continues her discussion of Bess of Hardwick's life. She describes the flight of Mary Queen of Scots to England and other issues of English history in the 16th century. She says it is important to understand the details of multiple generations of history in order to practice living history.

Keywords: First person voice; Persona; Research

Subjects: Catherine de MeĢdicis, Queen, consort of Henry II, King of France, 1519-1589.; Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 1533-1603.; Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542-1587.; Shrewsbury, Elizabeth Hardwick Talbot, Countess of, 1527?-1608.

00:39:17 - Research supporting living history / Biased attitudes in living history

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Partial Transcript: Wow. Well, did you get all this from, uh, like secondary sources or did you read like their--any of the original, like correspondence or where do you--what kind of research do you do?

Segment Synopsis: Jang talks about the research that she does to support her living history portrayal. She says she has read correspondence from Bess of Hardwick, which she says has been transcribed and is available online. She agrees that within the living history movement there is a wide variety of commitment to research and historical accuracy. She notes that some reenactors are more interested in handling period firearms and others may be able to discuss in detail the history of American Civil War battles. She talks about dealing with culturally and socially sensitive issues as a living history interpreter in the first person voice.

Keywords: Accuracy; Authenticity; First person voice; Persona; Reenactment; Reenactor; Research

Subjects: Austen, Jane, 1775-1817.; Correspondence.; Shrewsbury, Elizabeth Hardwick Talbot, Countess of, 1527?-1608.

00:43:49 - Favorite living history memory

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, I, I certainly thank you for your time. I have one last question I like, I like to call it my capstone question.

Segment Synopsis: Jang says her favorite memory from her involvement in living history was showing her textiles at Hardwick Hall. She relates her own embroidery to the tapestry work done by Bess of Hardwick.

Keywords: First person voice; Persona

Subjects: Hardwick Hall (England); Shrewsbury, Elizabeth Hardwick Talbot, Countess of, 1527?-1608.; Tapestry.