Dirty Petticoats

Dirty Petticoats are often used in cinematic storytelling to show that a woman is outside of the usual realm of what she is supposed to be doing.

In this case, however, it was a warning, use to place us “poor females” deeper into the story, among other warnings which included watching out for the “wild horses, which have been known to buck even the most skilled of riders” (aka segway tours), advice to avoid Hooker’s District because “if you are robbed or stabbed, don’t go to the police, we’ll assume that you had it coming to you,” and to leave the herds of cows in peace and keep an eye out for any of the “remains” of their business.

Don’t worry– we did spend the weekend in Washington DC… it just happened to be the capital of 1865 rather then 2017. Ford’s Theatre presents “History of Foot” tours which immerse you into the past through storytelling and we became deputy detectives to help Detective James McDevitt of the Metropolitan Police Force find the guilty parties involved in President Lincoln’s assassination, and to decide if it was a lone act or part of a larger conspiracy.

The tours started at Ford’s Theatre, the scene of the crime, and continued for a mile and a half past major landmarks (some still there, others long gone) until we reached the White House– and our case-solving decisions. We saw photos of the parties involved, heard witness accounts and passed our judgement– the rainy day adding to the mysterious feeling of being transplanted in the past.

While some of the present time had to remain: watching out for cars while crossing the street, the large groups of people gathering for the science march, or the necessity of the Detective wearing a microphone, the script was written in a way that would explain away all these little nuisances to solidify your place in the past. I was impressed that the script specifically allowed the actor to come out of character at the end to make sure that the group was well founded in the present, and establish himself as, “not a ghost,” which is one of the hardest elements to get across when working with first-person interpreted stories.

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