Recreating 1816: Costumed Interpreters at Locust Grove

It’s an exciting time of year here at Locust Grove, as we look forward to all the fun events coming up in 2016. Our intrepid volunteer cast of Costumed Interpreters are looking for a few good men and women to join the cast of Croghan and Clark family members, neighbors, and friends. Today, Amy L., the corps’ Theatrical Director who portrays Emilia Clark, is our guest blogger, presenting 10 Frequently Asked Questions About the First Person Interpreter Program. Take it away, Amy!

The 2015 Costumed Interpreter Corps at Christmastide. Photo courtesy of Fox and Rose Photography.
#10 Are you hot?
It’s Kentucky in July. Next question.
#9 What is the First Person Interpreter program, anyway?
We are an amateur cast of volunteer performers who combine our love of interactive theater with a passion for history. First person interpreters are cast in the roles of members of the Croghan and Clark families as well as other notable Louisvillians with a connection to Locust Grove.
Interactive theater means that we are in character any time we are out and dressed on the property, but unlike going to a play, we are interacting with Locust Grove’s visitors. Most of what we do involves improvisational theater. The goal of this program is to bring Locust Grove alive the way it would have been in 1816; full of sounds, movement, and people!
Interpreters are present in the house and grounds of Locust Grove at many events such as Gardner’s Fair and Antiques Market. We are also able to take center stage on the Fourth of July and at Christmastide. Our goal is to continue integrating ourselves into Locust Grove’s programming- but to do that, we need volunteers!
Charles and Nicholas survey Locust Grove from the porch with their cousin, Eloise Bullitt, Summer 2015.
#8 Is there a script?
Many people ask us if we have a script. Since most of what we do is improvisational, in the strictest sense the answer is ‘no’, but that does not mean you are on your own or that we just ‘make everything up’.
The closest thing we have to a traditional script would be the wonderful transcriptions of the letters and other documents the Croghan and Clark families left behind. We study material culture and day to day life to present the frame that important historical events took place in.
Many interpreters also take on individual research projects on an aspect of material culture which interests them, such as painting, sewing, or games of the period.
During rehearsals and workshops, we practice taking this information and discussing it in a natural, conversational style. For example, since we interpret the year 1816, we spend a good deal of time talking about the process Indiana statehood as it unfolded throughout the year.
Gardners fair
Amy as Emilia Clarke speaks to guests to Locust Grove. Photo Courtesy of Fox and Rose Photography.
#7 Are you wearing stays?
Yep! See #3
#6 How do I get involved?
Locust Grove will be holding auditions for the program at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, April 5th. If you absolutely cannot make that time but would like to participate, we can schedule another audition time for you. To set up an audition email Locust Grove’s Program Coordinator Brian Cushing at
After you have scheduled your audition we will send you a few monologues to choose from. These are taken from letters Written by members of the Croghan family. At your audition, you will read the monologue of your choice.
There will also be an improvisational component to your audition. We will ask you to pretend that you are an interpreter portraying a member of the Croghan family, and a member of the audition panel will pretend to be a Locust Grove guest who asks you questions. This is NOT a history test- we just want to see if you are comfortable interacting with visitors in an improvisational environment.
Since we are recreating 1816 at Locust Grove, we are limited to a set cast list based on who we know was in Louisville at the time. As with any audition process, we cannot guarantee anyone a place in the cast.
Charles and William at chess
Noah H. as Charles Croghan and Sam L. as William Croghan, Jr. face off in a game of checkers. Photo courtesy of Fox and Rose Photography.
#5 Do I have to have a background in theater?
No! Many of our performers have extensive amateur resumes, while others had never acted before joining the cast. Some of them have joined the program in order to push themselves past their comfort zone by doing something new.
#4 What happens if I am cast?
Then grasshopper, your training begins.
Before anyone performs as an interpreter, they must complete a series of workshops. These are designed to prepare you to discuss historical events and daily life in 1816 Louisville. All interpreters are required to complete six workshops per year, and new participants must complete workshops on the history of the home, clothing of the period, and physical characterization and character development before they can perform at Locust Grove.
We actually offer far more than 6 workshops per year, so cast members with different schedules have the opportunity to fulfill these requirements. You will also have to have approved clothing to venture out in.
Amy works with Jocelyn and Noah H. during a CI workshop.
#3 Are costumes provided, or will I have to make my own?
All clothing worn in this program has to pass approval by the Costume Director. Since we are a living museum display, our clothing has to meet the same standards as any static display in the house.
Most first person interpreters provide all of their own costumes. We are able to provide some costuming for first year participants to help you get started, though this is limited to what is available in the Locust Grove stash and available on a first come, first serve, basis.
We want to empower our volunteers to take ownership of their impression and clothing is a significant buy-in that accomplishes this.
Brian Cushing and Brandon V. work on a piece for the reenactment of the 1822 wedding Ann Croghan to General Thomas Jesup.
#2 Do I need to know how to sew?
No! We are also committed to helping our folks learn to be self-sufficient and create their own clothing. We currently have several workshops scheduled on the clothing of the period and how to create it.
For those of you who choose to ‘sew with your wallet’, we will help you find an approved tailor to work with.
Mia S. works on a wardrobe piece.
#1 And the most important thing to know about this program- We work hard, and we play hard!
We recognize that we are asking a lot of our volunteer interpreters, so possibly the most amazing thing about this program is how consistently our cast continues to raise the bar and surpass even our expectations.
Being a part of this program really is an amazing rush, and at the end of the day, even if we are tired and our feet hurt, none of us would trade one second for a quiet day at home.
such silliness

Such silliness! Photo courtesy of Fox and Rose Photography.

Thanks so much, Amy! Check here for the full audition notice, check us out on Facebook, or contact Brian Cushing at Break a leg, everyone!
Theatrically yours,

One thought on “Recreating 1816: Costumed Interpreters at Locust Grove

  1. Pingback: Volunteer Spotlight: Carol Bolton | Locust Grove Louisville

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