Auditioning for the Donner Party

Jan 28, 2015 10 comments
Just on a lark, a few of us Great Basin Costume ladies went to an audition for a Donner Party documentary filming this year. We were in costume and all got callbacks, which happened today.

I auditioned for Margaret Reed, who was 32 when she set out across the country as part of the Donner-Reed party. Here she is later in life, after surviving The Ordeal:

I'd be happy to play Margaret Reed, who kept her entire family alive without the help of her husband James, who had been banished from the wagon train earlier in the expedition. The Reeds did not resort to cannibalism, and later settled in San Jose, where I went to school and walked down Reed Street every day to get to class.

I was pretty crap at my lines, having no acting experience whatsoever. We were asked to dress in costume if we had them, so this is what I wore:

At least I looked the part! Kindof...!


  1. Gorgeous costume Lauren ! Love it!

  2. I live in San Jose and had no idea that was why it's called Reed Street! How fascinating.

    Love the look.

    1. I didn't either for years and years until a friend of mine pointed out the original house and told me that's why the street was named that. Another San Jose - to - Reno connection :-)

  3. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend "Snow Mountain Passage" by James Houston. It's about the Reed family, and takes place mostly in San Jose after the, erm, unpleasantness. Excellent preparation for the role, I'd think, and a good read even if they only use you as an extra.

  4. How beautiful! I believe you were wonderful in your acting! :)

  5. You look great! Hope you get it, tho poor Mrs. Reed's totally worn out look will be difficult for your lovely face to reproduce:) your can-do spirit will prevail, tho, I'm sure!
    All the best,
    Nancy N

  6. You look so lovely! Fingers crossed you get the role:-)

  7. Another interesting Donner Party fact, James Reed served with Abraham Lincoln in the Black Hawk War in 1832. Reed brought with him paper word from the war with him on the Donner Party, including one that had Lincoln's signature. Remarkable the items survived and made it to California.

  8. Beautiful! I've been looking for a pattern to make a skirt like that!


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