A Day with the Chownings

May 30, 2017

Colonial Williamsburg is certainly not a novelty in this little corner of the internet. Nor is collaborating with total strangers (that's not just something cute I put in the contact forum, it's genuinely something that happens on a regular basis). But this shoot holds a special place in my heart because it takes us through a day in the life of some of the historic district's fine interpreters. As a kid, getting to see living history - not just dates and figures, but how people actually lived, worked, and thought - had a huge impact. I partially blame CW for my bachelor's degree in history (no regrets, I still use the research side of things all the time). Getting to follow this lovely group of people for a day and a half, documenting their work, and listening in on the historic discussions was a treat - part of me still can't exactly believe they agreed to let an unknown interloper in on it all. 'This lovely group' is the Chowning family, or all of the individuals that make up the Jugbroke Theater Company. Their job: to produce theatrics and songs for use at the Playbooth Stage, and special events as necessary. The photos start on a sunshine-filled May afternoon, and go through quitting time the next day - hopefully they will give an insight into all of the effort that goes into keeping just this one aspect of Colonial Williamsburg accurate, high-quality, and entertaining. 

About half an hour before a show starts, the majority of the Chownings are out front singing old songs and drawing in the crowd. 

The Playbooth Stage is actually on the same grounds where the first theater in British North America stood. The owner around Revolutionary times ran the theater, the bowling green, and the tavern - clearly a savvy businessman.  

I think this pretty much sums up the group dynamic: the guys up to their shenanigans while the estimable Miss Hurt looks on, bemused. 

After the first performance, gathering to clean up a few of the finer points of the show and discuss historically accurate hats. 

Off to play for the masses, and gather an audience for the next show.

The colonial equivalent of a megaphone. 

Virginia's most entertaining sheep charms the crowd.

The next morning, everyone met up in the Jugbroke Theater office, fondly referred to as The Lair (it's in the basement of one of the historic buildings). The day starts around the whiteboard, going over current assignments and working through the schedule. 

I think the desk mishmash explains how multifaceted the job is; on a given day they are writing, researching, preparing/reparing costumes, rehearsing - and performing for about two hours. Much to my amazement, this operation did not also involve guzzling caffeine.

Does your job involve figuring out how best to imitate a stag? Didn't think so.

Rehearsing for a performance that night at the governor's palace, where a grand garden party was to be held. (also: the sight of a tall fella in a flower crown just makes me happy)

Costume rack.

It turns out burnt cloves were used as brow pencils back in the day. Just watch, it'll be all the rage in another hundred years or so.

Probably perplexing over free verse vs. structured poetry.

Outside, for the one performance this rainy day would allow. Due to a slippery stage they switched out a play for a musical review, played out closer to the audience to keep the instruments safe from the mist that was still falling.

A huge shoutout to the whole Chowning family for letting me and my camera invade your workspace and observe your day!