The role of the role play
Almost everyone will agree that making a public presentation is not easy. But it can be both fun and rewarding.
Some topics lend themselves to audio-visual support. My cousin, David Christie, has done several presentations of his mountain climbing experiences. His slides transport his viewers to the situations he gets himself into that are so out-of-our-world, we need the pictures to even begin to imagine what he saw and felt.
Show and tell works well if the presenter has objects that can be passed around. This summer I attended a presentation at Fort Beausejour where we were able to handle the artefacts being described.
I was asked to provide the program for the Baptist Men’s Group in November. I did a role play. Dressed in my great-grandmother Sabra’s dress, I spoke as if I was actually her, speaking to the Men’s Bible Study Group in 1897.
Why would I choose to do a role play?
Some years ago I was asked to present to Zonta about Grace MacLeod Rogers, the internationally acclaimed author who lived and wrote in Amherst for forty years at the beginning of the last century. We ate rather a heavy lunch after which I spoke - only to realize that I was putting my listeners to sleep. The chairperson and I agreed that I should cut it short!
I had already been asked to present on Grace to the Tantramar Seniors’ College so you can imagine my consternation. It was my husband Brian who reminded me how excited I had been a few weeks earlier by a class about Henry Ketchum, the leader of the Ship Railway effort in the late 1800s, which had been presented as a role play.
I rewrote my presentation about Grace as a role play, situating it at the time when she communicates her and her husband’s decision to leave Amherst to their son, Norman MacLeod Rogers, who has invited his parents to move to Kingston near his family. He is a busy parliamentarian so the phone call is brief but she then ruminates aloud about her life and the numerous “firsts” she has accomplished.
That role play has been a success with the Seniors’ College, it brought tears to the Rogers family at their Reunion at Pictou Lodge, it was well received during several performances in the Valley at Grace’s birthplace and I performed a shortened version here for an International Women’s Day breakfast.
By choosing to be Mrs. George Christie in 1897, I was able to speak personally, sharing the difficulty of getting George to marry me in the 1860s when he was trying to get Christie Bros. factory going, but I was getting up in my thirties and we wanted to have a family.
I drew on David Christie’s booklet on Christie Brothers to talk about the thirty year history of both the business and how the coming of the Inter-Colonial Railway in 1876 changed Amherst from an agricultural community to a manufacturing centre.
Because the Baptist Church was built in 1895, I asked Brother Ed Colquhoun to help me read an 1895 newspaper article about the Dedication and building of the church that had been saved by my daughterin-law, Mrs. Fred Christie, in her scrapbook.
The 25-minute role play was very well received and was mentioned enthusiastically to missing members. I hope the opportunity offers to present all or some of it again.
My last 40 columns are now available in Read More About Amherst, a booklet selling for $13 or less at my usual outlets. It would make a great Christmas present for Amherstonians who grew up here, live here now or who have just arrived.
To buy my publications, go to the Artisans’ Gallery, Amherst Centre Mall; Maritime Mosaic, Dayle’s, Victoria Street, Amherst; Flying Colours, Maccan; and Main and Station, Parrsboro.
Coles carries My dear Alice. For my seven self-published books and booklets, go to the Cumberland County Museum and Archives and to the YMCA Amherst.