Note: For the first assignment for my summer Multimedia Journalism task I was tasked with writing a print story (and taking pictures) on an event. Though this happened over six weeks ago, now that the class is over, I get to post it.
Actor Kaitee Treadway is on a mission. Clad in full colonial-era garb and armed with her puppet, Samuel, she sits in a corner of the pier off the Boston Tea Party Museum. When she spots her mark – a young child looking lost – she makes her move. “Hello!” She calls out in a sing-song voice. “What’s your name?” If the child answers, they’re asked, “have you heard about the events happening lately in Boston?” The script varies from there, but it always ends with the child and puppet brainstorming how best to protest British taxation.
Treadway (and Samuel) are one of the over 20 stations aimed at engaging all age groups that are put up during Revelry at Griffin’s Wharf, a special event taking place the week of July Fourth and hosted by the Boston Tea Party Museum. Normally, the museum leads costumed guided tours through their replica merchant ships and tea rooms. But on Revelry, instead of being guided, visitors are set free to interact with dozens of cast members and try activities from knot tying, to Colonial-era games. To encourage participation, a scavenger hunt is handed out with a small prize – a button reading “Huzzah!” – promised upon completion. It offers initial motivation, but many visitors get caught up and never bother to finish.
Engaging with visitors is what actor Armando Rivera lives for. “The best part is… that moment when people make that connection… when the whole story comes together for them,” he says. “And you’ve done it, you’ve combined theater and education.”
For all the actors, Revelry is their favorite time of year, because it offers a unique chance to make that connection with visitors. Actors are are able to deviate from scripts and focus on their own personal passions. Rivera and actor Christopher S. Davis share an interest in Colonial economics, and at Revelry they play rival tea merchants who walk visitors through the economic implications of the Tea Party. It seems a mundane detail, but leading a visitor through calculating what it would mean to a Colonial sailor – who made an average £2 a month – to have £10,000 of tea destroyed in a matter of hours makes the historical context much clearer.
The biggest obstacle to actors is the weather. The draw of the museum is the replicas of the actual ships the Tea Party took place on, and they are outdoors, floating in the Fort Point Channel. During Revelry there’s heat to contend with, but Davis recalls giving one tour in winter when the harbor was frozen over. “We’re throwing the tea over…and it just bounces on the ice.”
Davis slips into his historical character, affecting a tremulous accent to proclaim, “We’ll make ice tea tonight!” before returning to his modern self with a smile. “It’s fun. You try to make it fun.”
And on a beautiful July night, with the museum filled with over a hundred visitors buying tricorn hats and laughing as they toss canvas bags marked “TEA” over the sides of the replica ships, it seems that, at least for this year’s Revelry, they have succeeded.