Some people study history, and some people live it.
Longtime Hampton residents Richard Askew and T.J. Savage are historic interpreters who travel around the Peninsula, providing personal history lessons.
Askew presents his portrayals at the Hampton History Museum and before other groups that focus on history. Savage works for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation as a costumed interpreter at the Yorktown Victory Center.
"The idea behind historical interpreters is to involve all the senses and stress the hands-on to fully understand how people lived when we were getting started," said Savage, standing tall as a sergeant from the American Revolution.
Dressed as Edmund Pendleton, a friend of President George Washington's, Askew maintains a colonial gentleman's mannerisms.
It is nearly 80 degrees on a June afternoon, and both men are wearing authentic period clothing made primarily from wool.
Askew completes his ensemble with a cane, because Pendleton walked with a limp.
"Pendleton is a distant relative of mine," said the Hampton resident. "Pendleton became a judge and helped rewrite the law of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson thought the laws he rewrote were still too British."
Pendleton is not the only character Askew portrays. He is also well known as Edgar Allen Poe. "I have to grow a mustache to be him," he notes.
Most recently, Askew portrayed Gov. Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740) in Hampton's Blackbeard Festival. He has also acted as Jean Laffite, a gentleman pirate, and Gov. John Murray Dunmore.
As a young adult, Askew said, he became interested in theater and studied theater design. He received his master's degree in fine arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. While still in Richmond, Askew taught classes on the history of apparel and the history of the American house at the university. He has also taught courses in antique appreciation.
The love of the area's past is a prime motivator for his portrayals, he said.
"I enjoying reading about history, but I also enjoy experiencing it."
History is so important to Askew that he serves on the board for the Hampton Historical Society and as president of the Hampton Heritage Foundation.
For the city's Blackbeard Festival each June, Askew serves as the historian, or haberdasher, said Karen Glass, festival committee member.
"He is our expert on period clothing, mannerisms, language and equipment of the 18th century," she said.
Savage played Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy for the Blackbeard Festival. He has performed the role since the festival's inception in 2000.
"Maynard was Blackbeard's nemesis and the man who led the expedition to find and kill Blackbeard," Glass said.
"They are two of the most talented actors, who provide a tremendous amount of skill as historical interpreters," said John Glass, another committee member.
Living history is specialty of Hampton interpreters
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