Thursday, June 21, 2007
Imagine Shreveport's tourist corps in historic drag: re-enacting local history on the terraces of Riverview Park on a regular basis
In the innermost precinct of the complex is the White Tower, the first of the several fortresses built as the royal residence.
There we came across men in tall boots with velvet waistcoats, forsooth. Another, m'lord, was in royal robes. And there were lasses in billowing skirts with their bodices overflowing. They were actors in period costume, readying themselves to deliver dialogue that would bring history to life. A crowd quickly gathered. We were enthalled by their presentations and followed them for some time as they moved about the grounds.
You are perhaps asking yourself, "Why doesn't Shreveport have a costumed troupe of actors whose job on the weekends is to bring the pioneer days into vivid action?
The are numerous scenarios that could be plucked from the pages of local history for such an enterprise.
- A gunfight between the town bully and a righteous, avenging physician.
- Banter between Annie McCune, Shreveport Madam, and one of her girls.
- The romance of Mary Bennett, founding female of this riverside community, by the man to be her second husband, Mr. Cane.
- Huddie Leadbelly Ledbetter coming to town to perform on the streets of St Paul's Bottoms.
- Dancers moved by the rhythms produced by Leadbelly's 12-string guitar.
- Capt Shreve and an assistant trying to figure out the last step of his snagboat design.
- Kaddahodacho tribesmen discussing the land settlement between themselves and the US Army.
Riverview Park and fountains offers a terrific backdrop for such presentations. It would be folly Not to use this stage for such infotainment. We're talking about an investment in tourism and education as well as in the art of street drama.
Developing such a program would mean learning from communities who have successfully pursued this scheme.
And at Caspiana House, Pioneer Heritage Center, there are people who have learned a great deal about such presentations by their annual Pioneer Days, a production that we've enjoyed and remember well.
Jan Pettiet, one of the region's most successful tour guides, likes to meet her visitors in pioneer costume. When I do Louisiana heritage shows for visitors I most often wear a tuxedo, which is classic entertainers' garb.
Riverview Park is a grand piece of work. And Shreveport has a story to tell. I say let us tell it with flair.