I got my start in reenacting in a roundabout way. Years ago, back when I was young and spry and joints didn’t crack as much as they do now, I was a ballet dancer.
My dance teacher belonged to an 18th century dance troupe, and one day she happened to invite me to a rehearsal because she thought I might enjoy it. Before long, I was a full-fledged member of the group, and we performed at local houses when they held events. I used to watch the battle reenactments and wish I could take part. I was only maybe 14 at the time, and saddened to learn that a person had to be at least 16 to be allowed a musket.
However, things – as they are want to do – change. When I was 16 I left my ballet company. It was a difficult part of my life to let go, because I had danced for 13 years. But I couldn’t keep up with ballet and my burgeoning interest in theatre at the same time. In the end, I had to choose. But it also meant an end to my time with the 18th century dance troupe. I terribly missed dancing with them, but I had no time.
High school graduation came and went so very quickly, and before I knew it I was neck-deep in college, working tech both in theatre and in television, and various endeavors kept me sometimes busier than I liked to be. Somewhere in the thick of it all I reconnected with a friend I’d known since grade school, but she and I were never quite in the same place in the school building and would often only be able to say hi to each other once in a while (this was pre-social media, kids. It was brutal out there in the jungle).
One day at her house I was introduced to friends of hers, a couple of which were reenactors. We soon discovered that not only did we all know the same people, but my friend belonged to a regiment run by her boyfriend (whom I also knew, as he had graduated the year ahead of us in school). She had never brought the subject up because she had no clue I’d be interested, and I never brought up my past with 18th century dance because it was, at that point, pretty well past.
I joined the regiment soon after and have been a proud member ever since. The first exciting new venture for me was branching off into late Victorian reenactment as well as Rev War, which my friends’ group also did. I’d always been fascinated by the late Victorian era but never had an outlet for it. I was over the moon. It was wonderful to do something new and different, and in an era I’d always wanted to learn more about.
In those days, the group was given many opportunities to attend events where, as a regiment, we were paid for our appearance. Group expenses like insurance is costly, and any income was a huge help. Often, though, we would only get paid if we fielded over a certain number of soldiers, and we’re a smaller group by virtue of the fact that we’re younger (some British groups have been around since the 1960s). Sometimes we would skirt very close to the edge of the minimum (and therefore possibly lose our stipend).
I offered to my Captain to be a fill-in when needed, though I admit I REALLY wanted to fulfill the dream I’d had for so many years of getting the chance to fight. But I also really did desire to help out. We as a group have many a laugh and many a good time, but we also work hard and take reenacting – and being a unit – seriously. I would do anything to help out my regiment mates. I saw this opportunity, initially, as a way to lend a hand and beef up numbers when we needed it. I learned the drill and borrowed kit, and for a while I was sort of like the hired mercenary who would soldier when needed.
Fast forward to three years later, I’m a fully-instated grenadier with my own clothes and my own kit, and while I still do like to be a girl it’s just a hell of a lot of fun running around with the guys. I don’t even really know how I convinced myself to dive in to full-time soldiering. It was always that thing I would have liked to do but it was just too darn expensive. British kit is some of the most expensive there is in Revolutionary War reenacting. For a long time it was too much of a financial burden for me. But then I got a full-time job at the school where I worked, salaried (and with benefits, thank the gods!), and I was finally able to stop being a burden on my friends who had to lend me their extra gear.
All these years now, and I’m enjoying it more than ever. If anything, I hope that’s what continues to come across in this blog. I figured I had to do some sort of extended “about me” portion so anyone who stumbles across this thing (thank you, by the way!) gets a sense of who the nutcase doing the typing is. Reenacting started off as a fun little side endeavor but it has blossomed into so much more. I’ve rekindled friendships with old pals, met new ones, and developed a more profound appreciation for history than I’ve ever had in my life. Even now, because I still remember all the basic steps, I’ll still step into the line for a dance if there is one at the event. As long as someone’s calling (or someone is willing to whisper steps to me as we go), I can still keep up.
I wouldn’t trade any reenacting experience, good or bad, for any other, and I’m so glad for that time I spent as a teenager with the dance troupe because it gave me a taste for reenacting life, and who knows? I may not have gotten involved with my friends if I hadn’t already known what reenacting was. Now that’s a scary thought.