Lauren Shear is one of the newest members of our Revolutionary Characters Live program. She joined us this spring, and has been interacting with visitors in character for just a few weeks. I interviewed her recently to find out more about the process of becoming a Revolutionary Character and what her experience has been like so far.
What character do you portray?
Elizabeth Cummings, an unmarried woman who owns a haberdashery with her sister Ame Cummings, where they sell ribbons, fabrics, hats, and other items.
How did you go about learning to inhabit this character? Did you do the research yourself, or was the information provided to you?
Most of the historical research was already done for this character, as someone else had previously portrayed Elizabeth Cummings. I was given transcripts of seven of Elizabeth and Ame’s letters, which gave me insight into her sense of humor and how she wrote. Using the research, I wrote a script which outlines answers to common questions or things that I thought I might get asked.
I trained 3 days a week for 3 weeks to practice 18th century speech patterns, vocabulary, and troubleshooting potential questions. We also spent a lot of time working on movement – how to walk, gesture, and curtsy like an 18th century woman. For female characters, the clothing does a lot to help you move correctly, especially the stays [corset].
What is the hardest thing to remember to do or not to do when you’re in character?
Um, not to say “um” so much! And not to accidentally say something that Elizabeth Cummings would never have said.
What was your first interaction with the public like?
Nerve-wracking, but a relief after weeks of training. I got asked a couple of questions that I didn’t have answers for, such as the cost of my gown, and how much profit the haberdashery made in a year.
What questions did you prepare for, but never get asked?
“What do you do with your leisure time?” I try to work the answers into the conversation, because I like to talk about what I’m reading, and the concerts and dances that I attend.
What is your favorite thing about being in character?
I love it when I have an engaged audience with lots of good questions and the conversation flows naturally. Some audiences are more reluctant to ask questions and it can be harder to find a rhythm.
Our Revolutionary Characters Live tours are given daily, June through October, at 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm, and 3:30 pm. Be sure to stop by to visit with Lauren as Elizabeth Cummings!