Enlightenment salon

Danielle Kincs

Poets, philosophers, and royalty from all over Enlightenment-era Europe met on November 10 to converse and share ideas with marked British accents. Recalling their life stories and discussing the current issues of the era, the characters were convincing, seeming almost real–until one member of the royalty held up a piece of beef jerky. This was the AP European History Enlightenment Salon.

The Enlightenment Salon, put on by AP European History teacher Ms. Kathy Green, almost literally gives students a chance to live out the history they have been studying this year. “[It] is a recreation of a Parisian salon that would have occurred in the late 1600s to the early 1700s,” said Ms. Green.

As a part of the salon, students are required to become a historical figure for a day. “Each student has a different historical figure from [between] 1650 and 1750,” said Ms. Green. Students are given a month to research their specific person and perfect their portrayal of their character. “They have to have a clear understanding of the person,” said Ms. Green, as students had to answer questions throughout the day about their person and were graded on their portrayal.

Perhaps the most recognized aspect of the salon is the costumes. “Some [students] make their costumes, some rent,” said Ms. Green. The students, dressed in elaborate clothing appropriate to the era, then transformed themselves into their character for the entire day. However, the students needed not to be involved in drama to do well (although many of the AP Euro kids are). “Even the less skilled actors do just fine,” said Ms. Green.

A traditional salon of the era was an opportunity for the wealthy to socialize and exchange new philosophical and literary ideas, and the AP Euro salon was no different. Students mingled throughout the library conversing about seventeenth-century ideas and developments (and of course not about the new “Call of Duty” game that had come out the night before).

The Enlightenment Salon has been going on for 11 years now, with good reason. “The AP curriculum requires that they know [these] people and how western society thought,” said Ms. Green, “Students walk out and they know who these people are.”

The salon is not only beneficial to learning, but students also greatly enjoy it. “Most of the students really like it,” said Ms. Green, “It’s a really informal way to present [since] the students socialize with each other.” The salon was also memorable. “Students from ten years ago still remember who was who,” said Ms. Green.

At this year’s salon, Newton explained his laws, and Alexander Pope even read lines of his poetry. “It was fascinating meeting so many people,” said Olympe de Gouges, an elaborately dressed Kelsey Myhre. However, overcome with enthusiasm, Matt Best (Greek philosopher, Aristotle) broke out of character for only a minute to say, “It’s a lot of fun. Definitely do it.”