Becoming a Freedom Trail Player
I start to dress in my “period clothing”–the word costume isn’t allowed. A thin layer of 21st-century T-shirt and leggings enables co-gender outfitting. I turn to Michael Szkolka, the Brit from the elevator. “Excuse me, but why are your under … pants … pleated?”
“They’re called breeches. That’s so I can comfortably spread my legs when I get on a horse,” he tells me.
I put on my “stay,” a rib-suppressing corset, followed by a “shift,” the relaxed name for an uncomfortable vest-like dress top. Lacing up, I peer down at my girdle-nudged breasts.
“Don’t worry,” Rudy offers. “You’ll hide all of that with the chemise you’ll wear underneath.” He gestures toward a dense collection of what appear to be nightgowns. “In founding our country, warmth, health, and safety trumped British high-period correctness and French decolletage,” he explains.
As I adjust what appear to be bags of mobile cellulite around my waist (intended to give my hips a whole lotta breadth), it’s clear that despite dropping a few petticoats over the years, women have always been expected to keep the ripe-‘n’-fertile look alive–then, now, and probably forever.
“Can I do three or four tours a day in summer and feel comfortable that these clothes are all mine?” I wonder aloud.
“Don’t worry–your undergarments get washed a couple times a week, 21st-century-style,” Rudy reassures me.
Jones enters the room. “So, who’d you pick?”
“Paul Revere’s second wife, Rachel,” I reply.
“That’s like auditioning for college theater as Hamlet!” Rudy exclaims. “Soooo overdone!”
“What he means is that someone is already playing Paul Revere’s first wife, Sarah,” Jones explains.
“I know,” I tell him. “That’s part of why I picked Rachel.” While tending to the crops and an ultimate total of 11 children (including the six surviving kids of her deceased predecessor, Sarah), Rachel Walker Revere stood by her man even after it was pretty obvious he’d plagiarized engraver Henry Pelham’s drawings of the Massacre, and in them made the martyred black man, Crispus Attucks, a white man. Rachel claimed it was her fault–that she’d borrowed all of the brown paint. To defend my choice, I talk theater: “The battle of the wives could make for some good dramatic tension.”
Jones sighs: “Remember, this isn’t reality, it’s history …” He pauses. “Oh wait,” he says, “history is reality.”
Back on Chauncy Street, I exhale, convinced that once costumed and on the Trail, I’ll be a great player. A pack of yakking urban office workers, hightailing it back to their cubicles with lunch bags and cigarettes, take me away from my fantasy by letting me know I need to get out of their way.
“Pray, pardon me,” I say, offering the colonial version of “Excuse me” as I step aside. “Good morrow!” I throw in. A couple of them turn to me with the cheerful expression that only something surprisingly pleasant brings. In that moment, I know: I am a player.