Darci Tucker is a revolutionary woman.
She brings the history of the Revolutionary War era to life with an interactive play and character interpretations that she performs for students, kindergarten through college, around the country.
She had a difference audience on Jan. 7 when she performed her play, "Revolutionary Women," for the residents of Solvang Friendship House. The play explores the issues and events that led to the American Revolution and civilian contributions to the war effort.
In different costumes, she portrays a poverty-stricken camp follower, a loyalist spy, and a woman who disguised herself as a man and fought for two years before being discovered. A lively discussion between members of the audience and the "women" followed each presentation, taking the play in sometimes unexpected directions.
After earning degrees in political science and sociology, Tucker taught history full time for 14 years at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the country's largest outdoor living history museum. In 2001, she founded American Lives: History Brought to Life, and took her passion for the subject material on the road. She still returns to Colonial Williamsburg each summer to teach.
"You might be surprised at how many visitors we get from California," she said.
Tucker has deep roots in the history of the Santa Ynez Valley. Her grandparents have owned property here since 1960. Her parents, Bob and Ann Tucker, retired to the Valley in 1996. Bob is currently a resident at Friendship House, which is how Darci's performance — with her proud mom in the audience — came about.
“It’s important for students to understand that the rights we value as Americans have their roots in the British system of government, and that the Revolution was not inevitable. The Revolutionary War deeply divided the American population, just like the Civil War did.
"Civilians sacrificed and contributed a great deal on both sides of the war effort," she said. "My hope is that the women in the play will inspire audience members to become active citizens who stand up for the issues they believe in.”
Approximately two dozen Friendship House residents were in her audience on Wednesday. Each of her three "Revolutionary Women" characters spoke in the language and style of the day as they described their often difficult lives. Two of the characters, loyalist spy Elizabeth Thompson, and Deborah Sampson, the woman who disguised herself as a man to fight, are actual people.
Sampson's story, in particular, seemed to enthrall the audience. Dressed in pants, a waistcoat, coat and hat, Tucker disappeared into her character as she described Sampson's decision as a young girl, to enlist in the Continental Army under the name of Robert Shurtleff.
She fought bravely, survived being shot, and won the admiration of fellow soldiers who assumed 'his' smooth skin was the result of Shurtleff being too young to shave. Only after being hospitalized with a high fever was Sampson's identity uncovered by the physician treating her.
Following her honorable discharge, Sampson married, had three children, and was championed by none other than Paul Revere to gain the same military benefits her male colleagues had.
"This was the best history lesson I've ever said," said one enthusiastic audience member, as Tucker concluded the play to a round of applause.
Tucker doesn’t only tell stories from American history. Today, Jan. 13, she's back at Friendship House with a presentation of folktales and fairy tales. She also trains teachers on how to use versatile interactive techniques in their classrooms.
For more information on American Lives: History Brought to Life, go to: www.americanlives.net.
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