When you venture down Blankenbaker Lane to visit Locust Grove, you’ll be entering the world of Lucy and William Croghan between the years 1790 and 1822. Yet recently, one of our costumed interpreters took us forward in time to the 1830s, using Locust Grove as point of discussion for the Underground Railroad. Catherine Bache is a sophomore at Kentucky Country Day School who has been volunteering as a costumed interpreter since 2010. When you encounter her this season, she’ll be portraying Eliza Croghan, the youngest daughter and fifth child of William and Lucy. If you read the Louisville Courier-Journal on a regular basis, you know that Catherine is already famous! Her interactive program, “Faces of Freedom: Preserving the Stories of the Underground Railroad” was a sold-out hit on September 5, but there are several encore performances in the upcoming weeks. To help whet your appetite for the next event on November 8, Catherine walked me through the process of developing this program as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award.
How did you come up with the idea for your project?
From the time that I became a Girl Scout in 1st grade, my goal has always been to earn my Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting. History is my favorite subject, so I knew I wanted to do something in this field. In middle school, I attended a school field trip and participated in an Underground Railroad simulation program. This event truly spoke to my heart, and I felt the need to share that knowledge with others. The Underground Railroad is taught in schools with many myths. With this reenactment program, I addressed several myths to educate the public about the truths of the Underground Railroad.
Can you walk me through the process of researching, writing, and casting?
I began my project by researching the Underground Railroad in general to understand the misconceptions myself. Once I figured out the groups of people from that time that I wished to represent, I chose the real people to base the characters off of and began to research their stories. If available, I researched from primary sources of the people, including letters and autobiographies. I wrote out a rough draft of the script and then to edit, I walked the grounds acting out each scene to make sure that the words would flow.
I asked my fellow costumed interpreters at Locust Grove if they would take part in my project. Most of them committed, as well as others who act in local productions.
What is the story of your program?
This interactive program showcases a significant and often stereotyped aspect of our nation’s history, the Underground Railroad. Program participants journey through the event as free African Americans, with freedom papers, leading an enslaved family member to freedom. Along the way, they encounter several characters including: slave holders, Quakers, free African Americans, and more.
What surprised you most about this project?
I was most surprised by the overwhelming response to the “Faces of Freedom” program! To have two sold out performances, with waiting lists, shows the interest and desire of the public to participate in this type of interactive interpretation.
What happens now? Will there be other opportunities to participate in Faces of Freedom?
The next performance will be on October 11th at 2:00 pm at the John P. Parker House in Ripley, Ohio. There will also be another event for the program at Locust Grove on November 8th at 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm. After these events, I will pass the scripts on to the National Park Service Network to Freedom. They will sustain my project by making it available to historic sites across the nation that interpret 19th century history.
Is there anything else you’d like the world to know about yourself or your project?
For the second part of my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I will nominate a site, called the Shrofe House, to be on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a documented site of Underground Railroad activity in northern Kentucky.
Thanks for sharing, Catherine! Best of luck!
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All photos courtesy of Story Moon Photography and Catherine Bache.