Re-enactor mixes love of history, acting

Special to the Tribune Chronicle Carol Starre-Kmiecik of Lakewood, wearing period-appropriate attire to give her the appearance of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, gave a presentation Saturday afternoon in the auditorium of the McKinley Birthplace Memorial in Niles.

NILES — American Red Cross founder Clara Barton shared her personal history at the McKinley Birthplace Memorial on Saturday.

Carol Starre-Kmiecik of Lakewood stood wearing a blouse and a dress like those Clara Barton would have worn, and spoke in period-appropriate terminology while explaining the history of the woman who was a Civil War nurse and the founder of one of the world’s largest disaster relief agencies to an audience of about 25 people.

Starre-Kmiecik, who also portrays other historical women, including Molly Brown and Amelia Earhart, said it was a combination of a love for history and a background in theater that led to her decision to begin a career as a re-enactor nearly 20 years ago.

“You have to speak differently, make language simpler, say ‘during my time,'” Starre-Kmiecik said, describing how she makes the characters she portrays seem more authentic and historical when addressing a modern audience.

Starre-Kmiecik said she originally began in theater, but decided when she had children that she didn’t want to take time away from her family to go to rehearsals, so she began reading biographies. This is also when she began to notice that other re-enactors who didn’t have a performance background didn’t know how to inflect or carry themselves properly. Now, Starre-Kmiecik does about 250 shows a year, including shows for schools, women’s charities and libraries.

After Barton finished her monologue, a question-and-answer session was held where people could ask questions relating to life and times of Clara Barton. The performance was held as part of a series commemorating the McKinley Birthplace Memorial’s centennial anniversary, according to curator Patricia Scarmuzzi.

“This is the first re-enactment that we have sponsored,” Scarmuzzi said. “It’s a really good way to educate the community; the people really respond to it.”

In the future, Scarmuzzi said they plan on having re-enactors for historical figures such as Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as a re-enactment of the McKinley Memorial Birthplace’s dedication and a gala as part of their centennial celebration.