Reliving the Past
James Bradford, also known as Brett Landis at Walnut High School, is not your average history teacher. He is also a part time military historian and a contributor to the writing of two books. Clad in one of his 12 costumes, Landis performs historical reenactments for crowds and in places such as London.
After graduating from college, Landis took a trip to historical sites in the east and crossed paths with a costume interpreter, who inspired him to apply living history to the classroom.
“I felt the experience of seeing the sights had a great impact, so then in my teaching I decided when I covered the wars, to dress up,” Landis said. “If I were to dress up like a war soldier and [tell] the story in the first person, the students would be moved at an emotional level, and if you learn something at an emotional level, you will learn better.”
Landis is part of The Colonel’s Company of the 33rd Foot, an reenactment organization that meets once a month to make costumes by hand, practice marching routines and ensure sure their speech matches the era of that performance.
“The only thing that goes through my mind is that I have no pretensions that I’m somebody from that time period. What I’m doing is representing a person from that era, and you don’t want to say anything that misrepresents people from that era,” Landis said.
Although he has reenacted for students in the past, Landis has never performed at Walnut High School before, partly because of the curriculum he has to teach and partly because he is unsure of his students’ reactions.
“They don’t understand that it’s not a costume I’m wearing but a museum quality reproduction. It takes a lot of time but I may do it, it’s just the academics and our school has been on standard instruction and living history does not fit into standard instruction. I’m not even sure common core instruction fits with living history,” Landis said.
Landis wants to pursue historical reenactments in the future as long as there is an interest from the public and he is still physically able to put on an authentic portrayal.
“My interest has always been to get a deeper insight of an era than you can just by just opening up a textbook, where I become the textbook basically, where the person I’m portraying is the text,” Landis said.
By Julie Lee, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of www.33rdfoot.org, The 33rd Regiment of Foot, Inc.