Do Savannnah

Experience one of Savannah history’s biggest celebrations with ‘Lafayette’ at Davenport House

  • “Lafayette in Savannah 1825: Celebrating the Nation’s Guest” will take place at the Davenport House Museum on Friday and Saturday nights in October.
  • Greg Vach performs as Lafayette in the Davenport House Museum’s newest program. (Provided by Davenport House Museum)
  • Jamal Toure performs in the Davenport House’s newest history-based program. (Provided by Davenport House Museum)
  • Jan Vach is a performer in the Davenport House’s latest programming on Lafayette’s visit to Savannah. (Provided by Davenport House Museum)
  • Costumed performers are part of the Davenport House Museum’s program on Lafayette’s visit to Savannah. (Photos courtesy of Davenport House Museum)
  • General Marquis de Lafayette
 

Experience one of Savannah history’s biggest celebrations with ‘Lafayette’ at Davenport House

03 Oct 2017

Several years ago, the staff at the Davenport House Museum, well-known for the living history performance “Dreadful Pestilence: Savannah’s Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1820,” put on a theatrical performance based on Gen. Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to Savannah in 1825.

According to Raleigh Marcell, program creator at the Davenport, the program received little enthusiasm because not many people were familiar with the last surviving French general of the Revolutionary War. That was until a Broadway production called “Hamilton” changed all that and put a spotlight on the great war hero.

“But, I can assure you, you will hear no mention of ‘Hamilton’ in our production,” Marcell says with a laugh.

“Lafayette in Savannah 1825: Celebrating the Nation’s Guest” will take place at the Davenport House Museum at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights in October. Reservations are recommended since only a limited number of people can take each tour. The performance requires that guests walk up and down stairs and maneuver in the candlelit rooms.

According to Jamie Credle, director of the museum, the program is a new history-based performance that features more theatrical elements and performers than their previous Lafayette program. The program will take guests through the activities that occurred when Lafayette traveled to Savannah and spent three days here in 1825, from March 19-21.

Marcell says President James Monroe invited Lafayette, the last living general of the American Revolution, back to visit the United States.

“He spent 13 months here … The reception he was given in all 24 states he visited had never been done before or since … It is unique in our history.”

Credle agrees and says, “There is nothing we can compare it to. Everyone loved him.”

She explains that the French war hero arrived to a fanfare of excited crowds and began his visit in Savannah with a two-hour military processional.

“Everyone came out to welcome him. … It took two hours with what we could walk in 20 minutes.”

Marcell says the procession led the general to a huge public dinner where he met with French descendants. “He also took part in large masonic ceremonies to recognize memorials for Revolutionary War heroes Gen. [Nathanael] Green and [Casimir] Pulaski — both of whom he knew.”

The whirlwind visit was capped off with a large ball at The Exchange, where our current City Hall now stands.

“That’s where all important events took place,” Marcell says. “During the performance, we give guests the chance ‘to meet Lafayette.’ We have someone [Greg Vach] portraying him so they can meet and talk to the great man.”

And Credle says they have many talented singers on board, so there will be songs, and guests will feel that they have experienced what it must have been like in Savannah during Lafayette’s visit.

She says actor Jamal Toure will discuss James Armstead Lafayette and perform as a free man of color. “James Armstead Lafayette served with Lafayette in Yorktown and was a double agent.”

Marcell adds, “It’s the kind of evening where you get to experience lots of things in a short amount of time — from moments in rooms in the house with actors, seeing period characters by candlelight and experiencing some period dancing … It’s not 90 minutes of sitting in one place … You’re moving around and experiencing what we have to offer at the Davenport House.

“… This is a way to honor a great founding father; he was considered as much as a founding father as the others … We hope everyone will come out to learn something and also to have fun.”

Credle agrees. “It’s wonderful to be in a space that you can’t experience at your computer … This is a valuable museum program that helps us get across a story about important people of our past and the value of history — and it’s something that happened right here; it’s a big deal.”

IF YOU GO

What: “Lafayette in Savannah 1825: Celebrating the Nation’s Guest”

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28

Where: Davenport House Museum, 324 E. State St.

Cost: $22 in advance; $25 at the door; reservations recommended

Info: davenporthousemuseum.org

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