Why pretend to be something or someone that you are not? Children pretend all the time. It is a form of play, an expression of their imagination. They have learned pieces of stories, let’s say after watching a movie little Johnnie pretends to be a pirate, or Zorro, or even a zombie. We think little to nothing of this child play, at times we encourage the expansion of such pretend play as a way to assist in our child’s growth. Pretending to be Zorro is a way for little Johnnie to learn about himself. During that session of play he experiences the thrill of being brave, imagining himself as he fights against injustice and evil and more importantly; visualizing himself as the hero.
What about adult play? Recently I made a trip to the Renaissance Fair in Kansas City, where I encountered a number of adults dressed as various characters from the past and it made me wonder about their performances and why they wanted to give up their weekends to be what they were not. I couldn’t help but also think about those dressing up to reenact the civil war, old west town shoot-outs require cowboys and sheriffs. Surely, these pretenders are not seeking a development of their imaginations? Are they unhappy with being who they are and seek to become someone else? Are they crazy? I mean, really, are they? Not only do they dress the part, but they focus on details of the character they portray.
At the Renaissance Fair the actors were careful to use the language of the period, and many managed a good accent to match; they go to a lot of trouble to perfect their pretend image. It matters to them and it matters to me. I enjoyed walking into history. The lay-out of the fair ran through a forest, and structures were built to create an effect of what it must have been like to live during that time period. Using my imagination I was able to really enjoy stepping into that time frame.
I don’t think it’s crazy to pretend, to expand our imaginations, and thus expand our appreciation of a particular time period.