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NBRN clash27p Nathan Seger, 17, left, and Andrew Bentley, 16, of the National Battlefield Park Youth Conservation Corps prepare for the event.
Nathan Seger, 17, left, and Andrew Bentley, 16, of the National Battlefield Park Youth Conservation Corps prepare for the event.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Published: Monday, 8/27/2012

History to come alive at Monroe park

Actors to portray lead-up to battles of January, 1813

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE — River Raisin National Battlefield Park has a historical extravaganza planned for the first part of Labor Day Weekend.

IF YOU GO

What: "Clash of Powers in Frontier America: A Walk Back in Time"

Where: River Raisin National Battlefield Park at 1403 Elm Ave., Monroe, a quarter mile west of I-75 at Exit 14 (Elm Ave.).

When: Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m.

Cost: Admission and parking are free.

The park will present Clash of Powers in Frontier America: A Walk Back in Time, from 1 to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The event features 14 performances offering perspectives of life in southeast Michigan in the early 19th century. Actors in costume are to give insight into the circumstances leading up to the Battles of the River Raisin in January, 1813, and a taste of what life was like two centuries ago.

"The purpose of the event is to bring history alive in a fun and engaging way," said Scott Bentley, the park superintendent. "We have actors from the region and from as far away as Washington, D.C. They will take visitors from Native American settlements along Lake Erie to fur trading. … We'll be telling stories from the youth perspective, including a 14-year-old boy from the British side. … It will conclude with a young George Custer, who grew up in this area."

Mr. Bentley compares the performances to one-act plays. They will be done outdoors, five times each day, every 30 minutes, within easy walking distance of the park's visitor center. Visitors will be able to stroll from one to the next.

"We've spaced them just far enough apart so the vignettes won't interfere with each other," he said.

Rebecca Roper, who lives in the Washington area, is to portray Dolly Madison. "I'm going to speak from her perspective about what was happening in Washington leading up to the War of 1812," she said. "I'll read some letters that were exchanged between then-President Madison and Native American leaders."

Scott Bentley, park superintendent, compares the performances to one-act plays. Scott Bentley, park superintendent, compares the performances to one-act plays.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

About half of the actors come from the Monroe Community Players, the theatrical troupe that usually holds its performances at Monroe Community College. Nancy Williams, a longtime member of the company, said group members wrote eight of the historical scenes.

"We were invited about three months ago, so we've been going like crazy," she explained.

Especially interesting, she said, is a performance called "The Melding of Cultures," which focuses on the French traders and the Indian women they married. Their offspring were known as metis, a French term for someone whose parents belonged to different ethnic groups.

"The actors talk about metis society and the married Native Americans and French traders. The priests wanted the women to become Catholic, so they became Catholic and married in the church. That whole time period really worked because there was the acceptance of the two cultures," she said.

Ms. Williams said another scene, "Not My Children," depicts the confrontation Elizabeth Knaggs Anderson had with attacking Indians. The Indians were so impressed with her courage that they left her and her 3-year-old child unharmed.

The two-day historical event is funded by a $20,000 grant from the National Park Foundation and $6,000 from the Monroe County War of 1812 Bicentennial Steering Committee.

"It should be a lot of fun," Mr. Bentley said. "We have lots and lots of people coming together. We're excited."



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