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culture

Culture

They see dead people

They got a (yellow) fever, and the only prescription is living history at the Davenport House

by Jim Morekis | jim@connectsavannah.com

24 OCT 5-11, 2011 | WWW.CONNECTSAVANNAH.COM

It’s one of the ironies of Savannah that a city so incredibly rich in real–life history would be so overrun with ghost tours talking about things which don’t exist at all, except in your feverish dreams and the minds of some of our more gullible tourists.

All Photos by andrea cervone

But for those who are looking for a bit of old–fashioned scary fun along with their history lesson, the Isaiah Davenport House Museum has just what the doctor ordered. “We try not to compete or criticize, but we do have something to offer that’s not made up,” laughs Davenport House Director Jamie Credle. For the past seven years during Halloween season, the Davenport House has staged living history programs based on Savannah’s traumatic but strangely compelling experience with Yellow Fever in the early 1800s. “When we first started this in 2003, we all thought, ‘what could be scarier than Yellow Fever?’” muses Credle. “But we’ve never wanted the topic to get tired. It gives us the opportunity to always think how we can be more creative.” Each year, the Davenport changes about a quarter of the “Yellow Fever” show to keep it fresh. This year’s edition — dubbed “A Mortality Prevails”

— builds on a wrinkle the cast and crew added last year: Staging part of the show in the newly restored Kennedy Pharmacy building on Broughton Street, directly behind the Davenport’s Columbia Square location. “When we originally researched the topic of Yellow Fever in Savannah, it became clear there were two newspapers in town that had very different ideas about it,” explains program co–creator Raleigh Marcell. “It was always in the back in my mind, but we couldn’t do it until we had the space to properly stage it.” After checking in at the Davenport House, patrons will take the quick walk to the Kennedy Pharmacy, which will host actors portraying key local figures of the period, including the editors of the two competing newspapers in Savannah at the time, which had two different opinions about who and what was at fault for the epidemic and what should be done about it. “We essentially take the sexiest parts of the disagreement and stage them as sort of a town meeting,” Marcell says. “It’s dramatic without having to dramatize anything.” The new script also uses elements of the writings of Washington Irving — not a Southerner but nonetheless an important Halloween figure because of his “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The cast of A Mortality Prevails range throughout the rooms of the Davenport House for the show, including a stop at the attic (top photo featuring co-creator Raleigh Marcells), usually not open to the public. (All photos by Andrea Cervone)

Profile for Connect Savannah

Oct. 05, 2011 Connect Savannah Issue  

Featuring the true-history scares of Davenport House's Yellow Fever show and the Owens Thomas House pre-Halloween Victorian mourning exhibit...

Oct. 05, 2011 Connect Savannah Issue  

Featuring the true-history scares of Davenport House's Yellow Fever show and the Owens Thomas House pre-Halloween Victorian mourning exhibit...

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