Reality Theatre in Galena, Illinois
The World of Charles Dickens Comes to Life
GALENA, ILLINOISHave you ever wanted to live the life of a character
in an adventure or mystery book or motion picture? Have you ever
watched PBS's Frontier House, The 1900 House, or
Manor House and wondered what it would be like to participate
in such a historical re-creation? Well, here's your chance. Now
you can escape into another time and place, into the fantasy
world of Charles Dickens' Victorian London. You will be caught
up in a whirlwind of melodramamissing documents, escaped lunatics, long-lost relatives,
unspeakable crimes, ghosts in the attic, and star-crossed lovers.
Bed-and-Breakfast inns in the historic Victorian community
of Galena, Illinois now offer " Reality Theatre "
productions of The Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield in
which participants re-create the London of Charles Dickens in
the year 1862. It is a world of Victorian ladies and gentlemen,
costermongers, Scotland Yard detectives, curmudgeons, sailors,
servants, villains, thieves, rascals, and a murderer or two.
Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers of Galena (BBIG), the area
innkeepers association, is teaming with PALLADIAN Interactive
Theatre to extend the traditional dinner theatre concept to include
an opportunity for the audience to participate as performers.
It's more like stepping through a time machine than attending
a conventional theatre.
The events take place throughout the town of Galena, with
participants lodging in one of the BBIG bed-and-breakfast inns.
The DeSoto House Hotel will become for the duration the Red Goose
in the words of Charles Dickens, "is found on one of those
quaint streets one stumbles onto by accident when looking for
a shortcut; it is one of those delightfully irregular inns where
you go up and down steps out of one room into another and come
on more rooms when you think you've seen them all; where there
is a bountiful provision of halls and little passages where you
find still older cottage rooms in unexpected places, with lattice
windows covered with lacy frost."
Galena is a popular tourist destination because of the delightful
19th Century architecture of its homes and business buildings.
The area boasts 43 bed-and-breakfast inns; sixteen of which are
BBIG members: Admiral's Park Avenue, Aldrich Guest House, Ann's
Snoop Sisters Inn, Annie Wiggins Guest House, Avery Guest House,
Belle Aire Mansion and Guest House, Brierwreath Manor Bed and
Breakfast, Captain Merry, Cloran Mansion, Farmers Guest House,
Galena Log Cabin Getaways, Goldmoor Inn, Hawk Valley Retreat,
Hellman Guest House, Queen Anne Guest House, and The Steamboat
House. It is the perfect location for a community-wide Reality
Theatre event, with up to 100 participants playing the
characters in the drama.
Participants each receive a production package with a Playbook
detailing their characters' background, goals, and resources.
There is also a "penny dreadful" booklet: The Mystery
of James Edwyn Wakefield, which relates the story up to the
time where the drama begins. The Dickens Miscellany booklet
includes historical background, an explanation of the British
"pounds and shillings" monetary system, and a "Glossary
of Proper Vocabulary for Refined Ladies, Gentlemen, and the University
if you aren't so hoity-toity, there is the "Dictionary of
Thieves' Cant, Scoundrel's Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence"
with all the slang of the London underworld.
Participants also receive Victorian British "stage money"including real
shillings, sixpence, and penniesas well as a facsimile reproduction
of the London Illustrated News from December 1862 with
clues to the mystery interwoven amid the original material.
There are up to ten plots unfolding simultaneously, and participants
may be involved in more than one plot. The characters are rated
by difficulty, with the easiest parts requiring little talent
or experience, and major roles being much more involved.
There is no predetermined ending. Participants are given guidelines
and goals, and after that whatever happens happens! Playwright
Robert Cook sums it up. "We've gotten to know the characters
so well, and yet they always surprise us. Every group of guests
plays it completely different."
The Mystery of James Edwyn Wakefield is currently available
for corporate incentive travel and private group bookings this
fall and winter, and a general admission production of the event
is scheduled for Saturday, March 11, 2006.
According to BBIG committee member Mike Reese, "Few areas
in the United States can capture the essence of Dicken's Victorian
London the way Galena, Illinois can. So we, the Bed and Breakfast
Innkeepers of Galena, are thrilled to be working in conjunction
with PALLADIAN Interactive Theatre to bring you The Mystery
of James Edwyn Wakefield. Come and join us for a murderously
Explore the actor within you.
Who knows? you might knock 'em dead
For more informationor to book private productions of Mystery of James
Edwyn Wakefield, please contact Kathie Farlow, Bed and Breakfast
Inns of Galena (BBIG), 334 Spring Street, Galena, Illinois 61036orAlan Lance Andersen, PALLADIAN Interactive
Theatre at (515) 388-5573.
"A terrific personal experience, giving participants
a truly stimulating involvement in theatre." Martin Limbird,
Iowa State University
"A delightful and stimulating intellectual exercise."
Raymond A. Cornell, Licensed Private Investigator
"This is not the stuff of the couch potato ..."
Finn Bullers, The Ames Daily Tribune
"I anticipated a lot of fun but think I got much more
than I bargained for... I'll be laughing about some of the happenings
for a little while to come!" Wendi Taylor, John Deere
"The plot's more twisted than the cobwebs in an old lady's
attic ..." Lori Nilles, The Daily Freeman-Journal
"Oh, the pageantry of it all!" Cindy Gabbert,