Host Ed Sutkowski talks with Scholar, Poet, and Actress, Debra Conner.
Debra Conner taught college-level creative writing and poetry courses for 22 semesters before embarking on a new way to educate as a living history performer. The self-described introvert details her transition from teaching it to “living it” as she travels the country performing as historical figures to a variety of audiences.
A living history performer differs from the more commonly known reenactor in that the living history performer is a scholar who has studied all aspects of a historical figure (his or her family, political beliefs, personality, hobbies, etc.). In Debra’s case, she studies figures for well over a year before introducing them into her repertoire. Debra’s performance has three parts, all of which are meant to engage the audience. She begins her performance in period costume and performs a monologue in character. Next the audience has a chance to ask the historical figure questions, which Debra answers in character. Finally, the audience has the opportunity to address Debra, where she can answer questions from the perspective of a scholar.
A published author herself, Debra is drawn to portraying other writers including Margaret Mitchell, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Emily Dickinson. Of Dickinson, a reclusive figure who withdrew from the world around the age of 30 to focus on writing, Debra says, “For those of us who love to write, it sounds like a delicious way to live.”