Living Historian Maria Matkin

(Frank) Here we are again. (Deb) I’m fortunate to know a lot of very, very talented people as are you, Frank. And I have a lot of reenactor friends, living historians. And what they mean by living historian as opposed to the dead ones? Living historian portrays a person so they’re portraying somebody. They’re not just lecturing about somebody. They’re actually portraying that person. If you’re looking for somebody to come to your class or your group, and you’re looking for living historian, it means that they’re actually portraying, taking on the role. Acting, all about acting today. They’re actually acting and doing the history at the same time so that’s what my friend Marla Matkin does. She does Libbie Custer. She’s an incredibly talented person, incredibly talented. That’s hard to do, to research somebody. When I was doing a lot of programs with the Ritchie House, they wanted me to be Mary Jane Ritchie, and I’m like, “Lord, have mercy.” For one thing, I’m nothing like Mary Jane. My accent would not have been like hers for sure. She was a quiet, pious woman. So I felt, I know it is laughable. (Frank) Casting a person is really hard. (Deb) Yes, really awful, and they were desperate. You know desperate, Frank? They were desperate. (Frank) But it’s acting. (Deb) They were desperate. Well, I gave it my best shot. I don’t think I was asked to come back and be Mary Jane. But my friend Diane Bernheimer does a great job as Mary Jane Ritchie. There are other people who have done far better than I, but I just don’t feel like I know anybody that well. You have to do a lot of work and know somebody that well and portray them, and answer questions like you think they would. (Frank) Yes, because their friends might come along and say, “She didn’t do that. Oh, that’s right, they’re reenacting it out”. (Deb) They will. The friends will come along and say that. Yes, believe me. Historians, yes, they’ll all come by and say, “Yes, that’s not right. Yes, she would never say that”. You can count on that and I just can’t take the criticism. [Laughter] (Deb) Leave it to Marla. (Frank) Oh my. We need to do a story. (Deb) All right, let’s take a look at my friend Marla Matkin. Is there any drama that compares to stories of real people in the American West? Living historian Marla Matkin brings her love of history and drama together and has made a life of sharing those dramatic stories. Becoming a living historian and independent scholar was a perfect marriage of history and theatre. These two disciplines prove a powerful combination in telling the story of the West and the people who colored its landscape. She has organized two theatre groups reminiscent of 19th Century theatrical troupes, The Post Players and Buffalo Bill’s Combination. She also writes and directs the group’s offerings. A lifelong Kansan, Marla grew up near Dodge City. Her great-grandparents had homesteaded in Ford County in 1877. Marla received a degree in education from Fort Hays State University, which proves a valuable asset in her effort to educate, entertain and inspire her audiences. She has recently written her first children’s book Custer’s Mouse, with more hopefully to follow. She volunteers her time and expertise at Fort Hays State Historic Site and is leading the committee to mark its 150th anniversary in 2017. She also volunteers at Fort Larned National Historic Site. For over twenty years, she has appeared before thousands of spectators. Her most notable engagements include the Smithsonian; Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming; National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City; and various National Parks. Marla has been on the roster of Humanities Nebraska for fourteen years, allowing her to share her passion for Western History with young and old alike throughout the state. As new possibilities present themselves, she hopes to grow her audiences, expand her horizons and educate and excite future historians and enthusiasts in an effort to keep history alive and relevant.