The 2003 Interview for Smoke & Fire News
An interview between “La Comtesse” and Mr. Scott H. of Scottsdale, Arizona; founder of “We Make History.”
Mr. H. or should I say Lord Scott, General Washington, Patrick Henry, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Royal Governor or one of half a dozen other names I understand you’ve gone by?
I have indeed been known by each of those appellations and a number of others besides, but for you madame (smile) I would be most glad to answer to whatever you may choose to call me.
(Blush) Quite the gentleman. Shall Lord Scott suffice then?
Lord Scott at your service, my Regency era impression which seems to have caught on as my signature persona.
Would you be so kind as to tell me then Lord Scott how your interest in history developed? What might have been the genesis of this passion?
My interest in history, particularly American history dates back to about the time I learned to read. I naturally seemed to gravitate toward studying that particular subject. My heroes were not athletes, movie stars or even business leaders but rather the founding fathers and others from 17th, 18th and 19th century America.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked playing baseball, football, tag, and riding bikes but could just as often be found seated in a chair with a good volume of history or historical fiction. Backyard battles with other neighborhood children were usually historic in nature and when my brother and I played with G.I. Joes they were often re-fighting the campaigns of the past. Think of the childhood scenes of the brothers in “Beau Geste” and you’ll have a pretty good picture.
Very interesting ... and cute too. But when did the idea of “reenacting” first occur to you.
I was a very patriotic child and much of this centered around the figures of the American Revolution. For the night of the bicentennial of Paul Revere’s ride I had my mom make me a three-cornered hat and I rode my bike around the neighborhood late at night as fast as I could shouting “The British are coming!” I guess you could say that was my first reenacting experience. I also remember showing up as George Washington (mom’s sewing skills again) for a “character day” at school. We used to play Civil War quite a bit on the playground too.
But this was all in childhood. How did your respect for your heritage begin to manifest itself through living history as an adult?
Over the years in business and otherwise I had developed diverse skills and experiences in management, informational and motivational speaking, advertising, publicity, special events, acting, modeling, fashion and scouting. My skills with acting and fashion began coming into play as opportunities arose with requests from various sources to research and portray persons as diverse as Martin Luther, John Bunyan, William Bradford, Patrick Henry and a Civil War era chaplain. A more recent opportunity through my state representative cast me in a portrayal of George Washington in an appearance before the Arizona State legislature.
I’ve seen some of your first-person portrayals and they are excellent but your scope has become much wider with the organization of history related events. What was the motivation here?
I quickly came to realize the power of reenacting to inspire the public and spark a renewed interest in reconnecting with their heritage. I also saw that this incredible tool was greatly under-utilized. Mentally, I began searching for a “vehicle” within the framework of reenacting that would appeal to a wide variety of people, stir up interest in their heritage, be a wholesome activity for couples and families and lift people to a higher level of culture than that typically practiced in our modern (or post-modern) age.
Recently I heard you referred to as a “Renaissance Man” and your diverse background would seem to bear that out. Yet, I must press the question. With such a variety of talents and interests why did you choose dance in particular for your “main thrust” or primary vehicle in accomplishing your stated object of “reconnecting people with their heritage?”
Renaissance man, eh? Your source is generous. Let us say that my claim would be one of aspiration rather than attainment. But to the point of your inquiry.
I’m a visionary but also an entrepreneur. If a vision is worth creating I will create it. It struck me that I had a very unusual combination of experiences, talents, knowledge and interest that like rivers flowing together into a confluence would make me uniquely suited (at least in my geographical area) to create a vision and bring it into actual fruition. As the initial part of this vision I saw historic dance, in particular historic style “Grand Balls” as a vehicle which would appeal to a much wider variety of people than a battlefield focus and create an arena that would be very conducive to character development.
And through much time, money and effort it has come to pass. We hold half a dozen historic Balls per year set during different time periods. Our events are packed. Ladies usually slightly outnumber gentlemen at these Balls and typically at least one half and as much as three quarters of our 150-200 attendees are between the ages of 13 and 30. This is extraordinary for history related events.
It is highly unusual to see so many teens and twenties involved in a history related event and I confess it is one of the appealing aspects of your Balls. But tell me, what do you mean by “character development?”
You must have noticed by my smile when I said it that there was something behind that particular phrase and I am very glad you asked. I mean character development in two important ways. First, the setting of a historic Ball is a wonderful venue for “practicing” the historic persona (whether real or fictitious) that one has been developing, among others who are doing the same. While not everyone at our events is “in character”, it is strongly encouraged and a sizable minority do so.
The second meaning behind “character development” pertains to those opportunities which were part and parcel of the Balls held by our ancestors but largely lost in modern times. Namely, the opportunity to polish one’s manners, sharpen one’s social skills and learn to treat all, particularly those of the opposite gender with grace, respect and esteem. Success in this area translates importantly into the “real world.”
These Balls are about far more than dancing aren’t they?
Certainly, yes. As enjoyable as period music and dance can be we also like to add in skits, singing, historic speeches and interpretations and reenactments of actual events depending on the time period and theme of any given Ball.
Beyond history, it is also very important to me that these events provide an opportunity for families to come together in a wholesome atmosphere for some good old-fashioned joy and excitement which everyone can feel comfortable participating in. The multi-generational aspect is enjoyable as well and is another example of something good from the historic culture of previous times which has been lost along the way. Various age groups interact at our Balls who normally would have little if any contact in modern “age-segregated” social settings.
Together, reconnecting folks with their heritage, providing wholesome activities for families and creating a venue for respect, manners and higher culture make up the three main thrusts of We Make History. They are our raison d’etre.
Bravo! And rightly so. Another highly unusual aspect I have noticed is that your success has largely been built with people who previously had no experience with reenacting or even dancing.
This is true and has been purposefully done. I am very appreciative of a small core of regular attendees from local Civil War, War of 1812 and Victorian societies but 90% or more of our group had no previous experience with reenacting.
It has primarily been the uninitiated which I have desired to reach with the “gospel” of history, heritage and higher culture. Thus at most events attendees are welcome in period style attire or modern evening wear. At the very beginning a large portion came in tuxes, suits and evening gowns or perhaps rented costumes. That was fine. Everyone has to begin somewhere – as we all once did. We gladly embrace those who are at the first steps of this extraordinary journey. But over time, through encouragement, teaching, seminars, pattern suggestions, fabric shopping, etc. we have built up a very large and strong contingent of people who are attired in a period manner that is second to none. Many who one, two or three years ago knew nothing of reenacting or period clothing are now beautifully attired for two, three or even four distinct eras!
The research, design, fabric search and then construction of period garments has been a wonderful family activity for my wife, daughters and I which we continually approach with enthusiasm. We have been blessed with the ability to communicate that joy and enthusiasm to other families as well and the results have been beautiful to behold.
How inspiring! Lord Scott, you earlier said something to the effect of the Balls being the initial part of the vision. What else might be ahead for We Make History?
We have already held one highly successful “School of The Reenactor” where we focused on persona development and basic acting skills. More of such will be ahead. Film production may be on the horizon. The Southwest’s first American Revolutionary War era group is already beginning and longer range goals include building a Georgian or perhaps Greek Revival style hall that would be suitable for elegant Balls as well as concerts and theatricals – all history related of course. Why should Williamsburg have all the fun? (smile)
Whatever we do it will continue to be enjoyable, educational, family friendly, beginner friendly (other than occasional “full immersion” activities) and relevant toward inspiring people with our wonderful history and cultural heritage.
You are organizing a large reenactment event in November are you not?
Indeed I am. The American Heritage Weekend (www.americanheritageweekend.com) to be held in a suburb of Phoenix on November 15th & 16th will be the largest multi-era, multi-faceted historic event ever to be held in The Southwest. By combining many of the interesting facets of both military and civilian life over a two century span we believe we will have the opportunity to inspire and educate many. Thus battle reenactments of the Revolutionary War, Civil War and Spanish American War as well as strong civilian elements incorporating colonists, mountain men, musicians, politicians, preachers and diverse roles for ladies and children will all make this an unusually intriguing event to say the least. My intention is to make it an annual that not only our region but the entire country can be proud of.
The name of your organization is exquisitely appropriate but I understand that there is a depth of meaning behind it.
True Comtesse. “Living history” holds immense possibility as an educational tool and I believe in the potential of historic dance and other social events to help us all in learning about and thus perhaps recovering wonderful aspects of our heritage, engendering respect, teaching good manners and providing wholesome entertainment. I truly believe that by meeting the sudden and great hunger in our society to be reconnected to their heritage and to a higher level of culture, that by recreating history we actually have the ability to impact our culture to such an extant that by doing so we make history. Hence "We Make History"!
And there it is! How can people learn more about you and the activities of We Make History or possibly contact you regarding utilizing your talents for events in other parts of the country?
Serious inquiries regarding bringing historic dance and/or one of my first person portrayals to events in the United States, Canada or Europe are welcome. Those interested in participating in the American Heritage Weekend may contact me as well.
La Comtesse does confess that these events are wonderfully enjoyable even for a reenactor or reenactress of many years experience. I don’t know where I have seen so many smiles on so many beautiful faces. Well done Lord Scott! Well done!