I really, really like the McLean County Museum of History's annual Discovery Walk, produced in conjunction with Illinois Voices Theatre and Bloomington's Evergreen Cemetery.
In the past, I've written for some of the historic characters who've populated the Discovery Walk, and I've also been a tour guide for groups touring Evergreen Cemetery to hear these voices from the past speak out. Last year, I took on a third role, portraying Lucy Orme Morgan in the Walk.
I will not be on the front lines this time, but I did write another character -- Mrs. Eliza Esque, who helped organize celebrations in honor of soldiers (including her husband), returning from the Civil War as well as the Emancipation Proclamation -- and I'm looking forward to seeing how actress Jennifer Rusk portrays my Eliza! (That's one of the benefits of writing for this sort of thing. Whether your character's historical file is slim or hefty, you can't help but become intrigued and a little bewitched by the person you're trying to conjure up.)
This year, all of the characters relate to the Civil War, as we honor the 150th anniversary of that war beginning. Eliza Esque will be joined by:
George and Frances Ela, a young married couple separated by war but maintaining their love and their patriotism in letters.
William Horine, a private in the McLean County Regiment who sent home very colorful letters about the conditions of war.
Lewis Ijams, a Union soldier, severely wounded and assumed dead on the battlefield, who managed to make it back to Union lines and eventually home.
John McNulta, a Union colonel and commander of the McLean County Regiment who employed innovative methods to ensure the safety of the men under his command.
Martha Rice, a Southern woman living in Bloomington. She and her husband, a Confederate sympathizer, were not looked on kindly by their neighbors.
John C. Roeder, a German immigrant who hunted lawless Confederate outlaws and desperadoes in Western Missouri.
Lee Smith and George Stipp, doctors who experienced the horrific conditions both surgeons and patients faced in an ill-equipped, over-crowded Union hospital housed in a former hotel on the outskirts of Washington DC.
Actors this year include favorites like Kathleen Kirk, Michael Pullin, Rhys Lovell and Todd Wineburner as well as newcomers Gwen de Veer, Nick McBurney, Michael O'Sullivan, Jeff Ready, Jennifer Rusk and Kevin Wickart.
Tickets for Discovery Walk 2011 will be on sale beginning September 6. You may purchase tickets at the Garlic Press, Evergreen Memorial Cemetery or the McLean County Museum of History. Prices range from $4 for children and students with ID to $10 for Museum members and $12 for the general public.
All tours take place at Evergreen Cemetery in Bloomington, with tours scheduled for 11 am and 2 pm on Saturday and Sunday October 1-2 and 8-9.
For more information, visit the Museum's webpage here or call 309-827-0428.