Both Mary Ann Jung and Tom Plott are drawn to the art of bringing history alive. The Arnold couple met at the Maryland Renaissance Festival when they were cast as each other’s love interest, and they have now been married for more than 20 years.
“We are actors. We’re not just reenactors,” Jung said. “We both use a fair amount of improv in what we do because that’s what we learned at the Renaissance Festival. Play with your audience. Let them have input. Roll with whatever they give you.”
Jung and Plott are longtime veterans of Renn Fest. Jung is entering her 40th season, and Plott is entering his 33rd.
Over the years, the two have served in a variety of roles in the festival and worked their way up in the ranks. Now, Jung is the Royal Court director and the director of Shakespearian language and history. Plott is the performance director and the director of the fight corps.
“Because of our many years of performing at the Renaissance Festival, the way we make history fun and accessible and personal is we’re entertainers,” Jung said.
Jung, an award-winning actress and Smithsonian scholar, turned living history into a full-time job through her company, History Alive. She travels, performing one-woman shows that tell the stories of important women in history.
Some of the women Jung portrays are Amelia Earhart, Clara Barton and Captain Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Ireland who commanded a fleet of ships and hundreds of men to fight off the English conquest of Ireland.
“The fact is, a lot of people, especially when I was growing up, didn’t have any female role models,” Jung said. “When I do these great women in history, I do them in a very fun, interactive way. It gives the little girls role models. It also inspires the older women.”
Similarly, Plott’s full-time job is the manager of character interpretation at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Plott also portrays George Washington’s doctor and farm manager.
Plott’s fascination with history goes back to his childhood. Growing up with dyslexia, Plott hated reading, and often felt that words on a page clouded the personality and actions of historic figures.
“History becomes visual in TV and movies, but it actually comes alive in person at the Renaissance Festival,” Plott said. “When you can see that personality and actually witness the action, it makes it a lot different.”
This year, the Maryland Renaissance Festival opens for the season on August 24 and runs through October 20. Mount Vernon is open year-round, and Jung has all upcoming show dates posted to her website, www.historyaliveshows.com.