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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Every Bostonian knows the story of Paul Revere and his midnight ride, thanks to the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. To alert the city of the where British troops were traveling from, Revere rode his horse to the Old North Church, knowing the devised signal: “One if by land, two if by sea.”
But what they may not know is what happened to his wife and children in the days after his famous ride.
Those lucky enough to be visiting the Walpole Library on April 16 had a rare chance to hear her story. An audience gathered in the community room at the Walpole Library to listen to the story of Rachel Revere in the short, one woman play “Rendezvous with Rachel Revere”.
Almost every seat in the community room was filled prior to the start of the play. Audience members were welcomed by the sounds of colonial music. At the front of the room was a trunk, with sweaters and socks hanging off the top, as if to be drying. There was a wooden chair with a matching desk. Sitting on top of the desk was a velvet bag and a bottle of ink with a quill. On the back of the chair was a cloak. Just as the audience was observing the set, a frazzled Rachel Revere burst on to the scene. “Paul, Paul!” she called, alerting her audience that her famous husband was indeed missing. “Mary, have you seen your father?” Rachel asked an audience member, who shook her head. “I have not an idea where he could be,” Rachel announced.
Rachel revealed the stress she was under: she had not heard from her husband, Paul, since he left for his midnight ride. Boston was under siege, with the British military controlling everyone who came and went. Rachel, with at least half a dozen children to care for, voiced to the audience a few versions of her plan to get her family to safety - though she was not too enthusiastic about any of them. Each one involved the risk of not finding Paul, or spending their entire savings. The most promising, it seemed, was for Rachel to purchase passes for she and her children to take a ferry to safety.
In an intermission from the seriousness of Rachel’s situation, she informed her audience about how she met Paul, following the death of his first wife. Rachel had never thought she would get married until she met Paul. After their meeting, Rachel took on the role of step-mother for all of Paul’s children and cared for them all lovingly and without a complaint, even as her husband left to aid his fellow patriots. As she finished her tale, Rachel finally received a letter from her husband, delivered by an audience member, and began to read it aloud to her very captivated audience. The letter requested items to be taken from their home and brought to the ferry so that Paul could ensure that they have a new house, safely away from the siege of Boston. Rachel stopped reading the letter and noted that she wanted Paul Jr. (a role played by an audience participant) to read one particular section of the letter. Rachel took a microphone, noting, “Take this odd device, though I know not what it does,” and handed it to Paul Jr. This section of the letter urged Paul Jr. to behave for Rachel and to take on some responsibilities to ensure the family’s safety during their journey.
The letter, though helpful to Rachel, brought up a laundry list of new problems she needed to solve before leaving Boston. Should the beds be sent before the children, or should the children be sent before the beds? What necessities must Rachel fit in to only one chest and one trunk? “What if we require arms to protect us?” she asked. How can they possibly smuggle sugar out of the city? Eventually, with the help of the audience, and her children, Rachel answered most of these questions.
The beds would be sent before the children. Rachel packed clothes and linen in her trunk and chest. The packet of sugar was wrapped up and sewed into the beds. Finally, Rachel and her children were ready to leave the city and begin a new life away from the Siege of Boston.
This play, sponsored by Walpole’s Friends of the Library, was part of the History at Play series. Like "Rendezvous with Rachel Revere," these plays tell the stories of women in history, many of whose lives would otherwise go unnoticed. Creator and Artistic Director Judith Kalaora has been playing Rachel since last August. The show is currently put on weekly at the Paul Revere House and Museum in Boston. Kalaora researched Rachel to develop the show and was completely captivated by her choices. "Rachel was 27 when she met this guy, and she has this urge to take over this role," Kalaora noted, referring to Rachel becoming a step-mother to Paul's several children. "The second volume of her life was very different than she thought it was going to go.”
The play about Rachel Revere captivated the audience and allowed each member to leave having learned at least one important lesson. Primary among them: the women of the Revolutionary War were just as important as the men were in efforts to gain independence.