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'Hometown Heroes' Brings Time Travel to Greenbelt

Dancers take small groups back to the '30s and '40s with historic sights, songs, costumes, antiques and more.

Update, July 14, 9 a.m.: Next performance is July 15, with tours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. .

Original Post, June 25: For the second sold-out Sunday, members of "alight dance theater" company took small groups of time travelers through history and the for "Hometown Heroes: 75 Years of Extraordinary Greenbelt Women".

Donning dresses, shoes and hairstyles dating back to the '30s and '40s, dancers moved and pirouetted in and around the historic home, while a recording with testimonials from early Greenbelt women lilted in the air.

The production is a partnership between Greenbelt Museum and and explores the lives and experiences of Greenbelt women, from young mothers to "homemakers" in the late 1930s and early 1940s up to present day.

On Sunday, tour-goers visited each room of the house following alight dancer, Monica Warren, while period commercials and music journeyed with them through the rooms—talking of thrifty pink Palmolive soap and bursting out with "When You're Smiling."

Old time radio programs intermittently wove themselves into the experience. In one snippet, a man warns that if conditions continue, small farmers will be an-hilly-ate-ed, using a pronunciation all his own for annihilated—and transforming dire news into comedy.

All the while, Warren moved, dancing, ironing, and pulling out a wedding dress. In the living room, she made dance movements while lounging on a couch and reading the "Saturday Evening Post."

Museum Curator Megan Searing Young said she thought it was very clever how Warren worked to imitate the Neysa McMein illustration on the Post—reflecting a timeless sentiment to wish you lived the life of a model on a magazine cover.

"It does really bring the house to life," Searing Young said. "I know that was one of Angella's goals."

Alight artistic director Angella Foster made half of the costumes and adapted others, with 1939 as her target year. While designing them, Foster said she researched the time period—looking through Greenbelt-specific photos—and looking at that age in general.

Foster wanted alight dancers to wear costumes typical of Greenbelt women, whom she said looked less cosmopolitan and wore more rural dress. Many of them made their own outfits and they didn't wear more expensive items like hats or gloves unless they were headed into Washington, she said.

Costumes, props, dance, set and sound met together for a moment in time that has brought some tour-goers to tears, according to Foster. Although Foster had aimed for a tone that was hopeful and light, she thinks the experience brings up emotions because it reminds people of their mothers and grandmothers.

It conjures up more visceral personal memories for some because they're in an intimate space that feels more personal than a stage, Foster said. "It does really feel like a family lives there."

Props in the historic home were brought in from the museum's education collection, augmenting the vintage pieces normally found there. Searing Young's parents even became involved, bringing pieces from their antique store, Roses and Reels, on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay.

Outside the house, tour-goers drank lemonade, ate chips and dip, and discussed the day's interactive experience, one that didn't involve computers and high tech gadgets.

Hometown Heroes has two remaining performance dates on July 15 and July 22. Times and ticket information is found on the Greenbelt Museum's website.

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