First, let me say that I have absolutely nothing against reenactors or reenactments. I totally understand and appreciate what reenactors are trying to do and I commend them for their dedication. I have attended reenactments and they are grand events with lots of pomp, pageantry and most of all noise! Thousands of people take part and thousands more come to watch. Reenactments are fine, but they are just not my favorite way to connect with the past.
Living an equal distance between Virginia and South Carolina, I have access to a great many prominent battlefield sites of both the Civil War and the American Revolution. When I visit, I almost always avoid reenactments and choose a time when there will be the fewest people and the least activity.
Why? Because I am an “Imagin-actor” rather than a reenactor.
In my mind’s eye, I can recreate what took place much more convincingly on a quiet weekday morning than is ever possible through the efforts of hundreds and perhaps thousands of men and women in period dress trying hard to stay in character while traveling the circuit in motor homes and sneaking time for a filtered cigarette or a cell phone call among other anachronisms.
Fans of reenactment describe an elusive condition they call a “period rush” … that sublime moment when you are able to totally suspend disbelief long enough to actually be transported back in time. How great would that be? Unfortunately, I have never come close to this experience during a reenactment, although I’ve certainly tried. Maybe it works for those doing the reenacting, but it just doesn’t click with me. In spite of all of the attempts at authenticity, there are simply too many modern-day distractions.
Instead, I choose to walk slowly through the early morning mist onto a secluded section of a place where men fought and died, where I can close my eyes for a moment and I can hear the guns firing and the men crying out in anger and pain. In my imagination, I am there.
Are you an Imagin-actor?