Confessions of a Living History Performer: Secrets to Making the Past Come Alive

Living history can bring the past to life vividly in a myriad of ways – such as demonstrating crafts from a bygone era, playing an old tune, donning period clothing and portraying an historical person. For nearly 30 years, Karen Haas has relished being a living history performer, one of the veterans of South Sound’s thriving living history community.

In a talk that will take you “behind the scenes,” Haas will share snippets of some of her programs, tell of the joys and challenges of creating historic personas, and give tips and tools for doing your own historic reenactment.  

Enjoy these entertainingly informative “Confessions of a Living History Performer” at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 24, 2024, at Historic Fort Steilacoom, 9601 Steilacoom Blvd. SW, Lakewood. 

Her talk in celebration of Women’s History Month is the first of several events commemorating the 175th anniversary of the U.S. Army’s arrival in Puget Sound and the founding of Fort Steilacoom. Fort Steilacoom operated from 1849 to 1868 before the buildings and grounds became what we call today Western State Hospital.

Throughout her career, Haas has interpreted the lives of dozens of unsung, famous or infamous people. Here are just a few of them:

Thea Foss, famed Tacoma-based maritime pioneer (famous then for always serving good coffee)
Narcissa Whitman, a pioneer whose legacy has been under close examination
Dr. Elizabeth Drake, one of Tacoma’s first female physicians. Dr. Drake loved fast cars, fast horses and fast boats – and lived two blocks from what became the Lakewood Mall
Bertha Snell, the first woman to pass the Washington bar, passionate about justice
And seven women whose different experiences gave them vastly different perspectives on the U.S. Civil War
Haas feels especially rewarded telling the tales of those whose voices are usually silent in history — women.
This is especially challenging at Fort Steilacoom as we’re not aware of published recollections of women at the fort, though several men who later became Civil War generals went on to publish memoirs.

The talk is free; donations are welcome. At Fort Steilacoom, volunteers keep the past alive through the support of donors like you. It is the only ‘first U.S. Army fort’ of its kind in the nation managed entirely by volunteers.

Book Sale Fundraiser to be held April 13, 2024

10 am – 3 pm at Historic Fort Steilacoom, Quarters 2, in Lakewood.

Want to help support the mission of Historic Fort Steilacoom? Donate your gently used material to the museum for the sale! Fiction and non-fiction books in all genres are welcome. The only criteria is that they need to be in reasonably good condition (no moldy or torn materials, please!) VHS, CDs, and DVDS are accepted, though print material is preferred.

Books can be dropped off at Fort Steilacoom from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, or Sunday, April 7. If you have an especially large amount, please let us know in advance so we can be prepared. Email us at [email protected] with questions, or if you have material to donate but can’t make it on the first Sunday of those months.