Generic Characters

The Case for Selecting a Generic Character for Chautauqua

 

A very small percentage of people make it into the history books. Most of the living and dying is done by the unheralded masses.  Most chautauquans pick a famous character but there are good reasons to select a generic character instead.

 

I am defining a generic character as a person that may not have actually existed but is representative of a person that lived in a specific time, circumstance, and place. You must realistically portray of what life would have been like for a person in that situation. Stories would come from portrayals of that era in history but they do not need to have all occurred to a specific individual.

 

Here are some examples:

 

·         Comstock Lode Miner – You would describe the working conditions, the hazards, and what life was like in Virginia City. You could talk about your journey to get here and your aspirations.

·         Pony Express Rider – Describe what it was like riding across the Nevada wilderness. Talk about the hazards, the excitement.  Tell stories that really happened from that period.

·         Pioneer Woman crossing Nevada along the Humboldt River – What was life like? What were your responsibilities, talk about your fears and dreams.

·         Homesteader (man or woman) – What was it like? What were the hazards? Why would you live like that? What are your disappointments, your joys?

·         Stage Coach Station keeper – It is your job to provide food, shelter, and fresh horses to the stages that traverses the trail. Tell us what life was like. What were the hazards?

·         Chinese Worker on the Central Pacific Railroad – Why did you come from China? What is your life like here? Tell stories from your experiences.

·         Child crossing Nevada with the Donner Party – Talk about the journey from a child’s point of view? What was life like on the trail? What are your hopes and fears?

·         Member of “Shoshone Mike’s” tribe or a member of the posse that hunted them down – This was called “the last Indian massacre” and it deserves to have more exposure. Tell the story as a character involved in it.

·         Person working at the Nevada Test Site during the explosion of the first Atom Bombs – Describe the urgency behind the project. How were secrets kept? What was the explosion like? What do you think of it now?

·         Mormon Settler in the Carson Valley (Man or Woman) – What was life like? What are your goals and fears? How do you feel about being told where to live by the leaders of your church?

·         Volunteer soldier from Nevada headed out to fight in the Civil War – Why did you volunteer? What was life like as a union soldier?

·         Member of Fremont’s Exploration party. Tell us what it was like. What did you discover? What were Kit Carson and John C. Freemont like?

 

Those are just a few of the possibilities. Any of these would fit in well with the Sesquicentennial theme this year.

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