Colonial Williamsburg is looking for triple-threat 18th century entertainers — those who can sing, act and dance.
But it comes at a price, and with criticism on social media.
In the restructuring of its tavern entertainment program, Colonial Williamsburg is phasing out its current balladeer program and will hire six full-time performers to entertain visitors to the four historic taverns — Chowning’s Tavern, Shields Tavern, King’s Arms Tavern and Christiana Campbell’s Tavern.
The job description CW posted Tuesday says it is looking for “diverse group (of) actors who can put their creative talents to use and work together as an ensemble.”
The job description says the new hires will “create and perform theatrical programming, primarily for the colonial taverns, that is based on 18th century history, fun and engaging for all audiences and connects to the themes of the Historic Area Interpretive plan.” They will also “interact with guests and tavern staff and interpret 18th century history and colonial life with guests both in and out of character.”
The criticism has been steady since Colonial Williamsburg posted the new job to its Facebook page, with more than 50 comments, largely negative and against the new job posting, posted through Wednesday morning.
In a statement, Ted Maris-Wolf, Colonial Williamsburg's vice president of education, research and historical interpretation, said the tavern entertainment was an important part of visitors' experience and Colonial Williamsburg is committed to making improvements to the program.
Maris-Wolf said that's because Colonial Williamsburg wants "to offer the best guest experience and the best employment opportunities for our valued interpreters."
The six performers who will be hired will be responsible for guest entertainment for lunch and dinner seven days per week.
"No existing balladeer contracts have been terminated and the current contracted balladeers have been encouraged to apply for the full-time positions," Maris-Wolf said in the statement. "Transitioning from contractual to full-time employment will provide Colonial Williamsburg important cost savings, which will be reinvested to improve tavern entertainment and programming throughout the Historic Area."
The changes to the tavern entertainment come as the tavern menus have been revamped for each to have a particular focus.
"It was really important to us that we branded each tavern," said Mark Florimonte, director of food and beverage for Colonial Williamsburg, earlier this month. "We have a hard time of getting people back to the taverns two and three times because we're so similar to each other. Now we've created a different experience in each one."
Florimonte said the new Shields will highlight international flavors, King’s Arms will feature a more elegant experience, Christiana Campbell’s Tavern will focus on foods of the Chesapeake Bay and Chowning's Tavern will provide more of an ale-house experience to sit, relax and enjoy finger food and 16 types of beer.
"It's amazing how well it has been received," Florimonte said. "I was a little hesitant. I was thinking, 'welll, we'll get a 10 to 20 percent kickback on it.' We've literally gotten zero kickback. It's all been very, very, very positive."
It also comes as Colonial Williamsburg is refocusing its programs at the museums to liven up the museums and attractions in the Historic Area, and as discussions resurfaced about possibly restricting access to ticket holders.