Debbie Edens, senior administrative assistant to provost, and her husband, Randy, share a fun and creative hobby as historic reenactors.
“My husband has more than 35 years under his belt and I have almost 20,” Debbie said. “Both of us began doing this through volunteerism and employment at Old Cowtown Museum here in Wichita. We were thrown together hosting kids campouts at Cowtown in 2002, and we married at the historic church in Cowtown the next year.
“Randy was already a seasoned veteran of amateur theater and living history at Cowtown,” she continued, “but he led me — kicking and almost screaming — to start doing living history competitions along with him. While I was terrified to perform in front of an audience, I finally agreed because I love doing the research on individuals and putting their lives into audience-friendly form. After several years of choking backstage fright and nausea every time I was on stage, I one day realized that I no longer had it!”
Debbie said they no longer do competitions, but the skills they learned will remain with them for years to come.
The Edenses not only did reenactments with Cowtown but have branched out to other living history museums such as Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop, Fort Larned and several others over the years.
Edens explained, “We demonstrate skills or portray historic individuals or team up with others to present historic scenarios and gunfights. We also began our own special event business in which we customize events for individuals, businesses, museums and communities.
“We like to get historical background whenever possible in order to make it as factual and authentic as possible, although we do work on a more slapstick method if that’s what the customer prefers. We just make sure to tell the audience that we’re not actually depicting history when we do so because it’s very important to both of us not to rewrite history as movies or TV sometimes do. We respect the history, and even more so the people who lived that history. They may be long gone, but we feel that true portrayal is the only respectful thing to do.”
Both have been a part of on-screen and behind-the-scenes film work with several companies over the years. Randy receives specialized roles, which call for their very own three horses.
Debbie explained, “While it’s always challenging to work with kids and animals, he loves doing it and is particularly proud of the long resumes that our horses have built for themselves.”
Debbie loves writing scripts and sewing her and her husband’s costumes on a treadle machine, but she said the most gratifying thing is talking about or demonstrating bygone practices such as 1800s laundry, cooking and sewing.
“When older folks start reminiscing their own experiences, they kind of drift away into their minds, their faces relax, and for just a little bit their world is a bit simpler, people are less complicated and the cares of today are pushed out. These are absolutely golden moments for me,” Debbie explained.