Lively look at history

February 06, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Actors from St. Mary's City brought history to life in a Carroll County classroom yesterday.

Members of the Maryland Moments program re-created the first settlement in the state for fourth-graders at Piney Ridge Elementary in Eldersburg.

The children proved themselves well versed in their state's history, readily answering questions about the colony's founding.

"The settlers came to Maryland for religious freedom," said Katherine Nichols. "The king wouldn't allow that in England."

Chris Green said land drew the first Marylanders. "In England, all the land was used up."

Four actors switched costumes and played several roles and encouraged the children to participate. They pulled a few students onstage. None took more pleasure in their impromptu appearances than Nick Bohn and Ricky Stem, who played assemblymen voting to deny women a vote.

"I just don't like girls," said Ricky.

After an ocean voyage, a duel with pirates and rigorous tilling, the actors visited the classrooms.

"I don't think pirates really attacked the colony," said Jessi Glauser. "We never studied that."

As Jessi led the actors to his classroom, he took a few barbs from actor Bryan Quirk, dressed as a sea captain.

The lack of buttons on Jessi's sweat suit would have denoted poverty in 17th century society.

"No button? You must not be a good farmer," said Quirk in his best British accent.

Jessi said he would prefer sports to farming.

"Sports? I don't know anybody who makes money from sports," the actor replied.

Quirk showed the students an antique compass and metal tools. He traced his character's travels from Britain to Barbados and to Maryland on a map hanging in the classroom. No one took him up on an offer to taste hardtack, an unleavened bread that would keep for ages, but needed a dunking in beer or wine to soften it.

"That is like a rock," said student Jake Debus. "It will break your teeth."

Dinah Nuthead, played by Sandy Shoemaker, demonstrated an early printing press. Dinah had come to the New World as an indentured servant, a practice that allowed the poor to pay for their passage by working as servants.

Although she could not read or write, Dinah learned the printing trade, married and became a wealthy landowner. Shannon Walter said she would not have minded indenture, if it meant she would one day own land.

Women usually married as soon as their indenture ended, Dinah said. She offered Shannon a choice between Jake, a new farmer, or Scott, whose black outfit indicated the wealth of a large plantation and many servants. Wealth won out. Shannon chose Scott to cheers from her classmates.

Linda Blizzard, fourth-grade teacher and team leader, selected the program for its relevance to classroom study and its low cost -- about $4 per child.

"The cost to bring the unit here was extremely reasonable," Blizzard said. "The kids have been really enthusiastic while preparing for this."

The troupe has scheduled 28 performances this winter, while the Maryland Moments exhibit in St. Mary's City is closed. The performance yesterday was the first in Carroll County. In March, the actors return to their roles at the state museum in the first Colonial capital.

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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