Guy Peartree as Fredrick Douglass

A Different Approach: Making History Come to Life

October 11, 2011
By: Worcester State University News

Guy Peartree took a break from portraying Frederick Douglass to hold a workshop titled “Dramatic Story Telling as a Window into History” for WSU students and faculty in the Eager Auditorium. Peartree started by saying he takes a different approach to teaching and learning history.

“History is a wonderful thing; living through it makes history come alive,” he said.

He uses dramatic storytelling techniques, placing emphasis on dialogue, voice, and pantomime, to become the historical characters he portrays.

Dramatic storytelling breaks down the barrier between the performer and the audience, he noted. The audience should feel connected to the story and be a part of the story rather than an observer.

The workshop focused on bringing the “child” out of the participants. Children use storytelling as a form of play, Peartree explained. They have less inhibitions and their reality is about perception. “We forget how to play, be creative, imagine as we grow,” he said.

Peartree reminded the participants that imagination has no boundaries. Any idea or object can be given a voice. Without notice, he lowered his voice and became Frederick Douglass. Peartree used his voice, facial expressions, and body movements to carry his audience from the Eager Auditorium and onto a Southern slavery plantation. The performance was beautiful and captivating; it heightened every participant’s curiosity and attentiveness.

Peartree explained that portraying a historical character such as Frederick Douglass is a deeply personal endeavor. “To open the heart is a lifetime activity,” he said. “To portray history or interpret history requires constant self-appraisal. To open my heart is the story of unfolding; it is the story of my becoming the truest self a self can be.”

Written by Ene Idoko ’11

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