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Living the Revolution

The British are coming!


On November 25, Revolutionary War reenactors will descend on Wall Street for the 225th anniversary of the British evacuation of New York. Earlier this month, they paraded through Fort Greene Park to help mark the centennial of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, which honors 11,000 Revolutionary prisoners of war who died aboard prison ships in the East River. Jill Weiner spoke to four of them.

Roxanne Memmolo
Office manager from Nyack
Role: Camp follower
How did you get into this?
Through dancing; I did historical dancing.
Does it affect your relationships?
I dated three men this year. All of them said, “I’m not going to get dressed up.” I can’t get involved with people who aren’t passionate about things I’m passionate about.
What about reenactors?
Men here wear britches and go out in the middle of the street and play dead, but they won’t dance because they think it looks silly.
Do you ever feel silly?
No. I like to play dress up. I always wear a costume on Halloween.

Raoul Mallalieu
Antiques dealer from Midland Park, New Jersey
Role: Privateer
Do you do a lot of reenactments?
Maybe fifteen or eighteen in a year and a half.
Do you always play a privateer?
Typically a militiaman.
Do you have a cell phone?
It rings with “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” My daughter recorded me whistling it.
Any disputes with Civil War reenactors?
They’re so numerous; they come to everything. They show up at events they don’t belong at, Revolutionary War events. You don’t see me going to Gettysburg. They’re misleading to the public.

Michael Grillo
Educator at Van Cortlandt House Museum from Bay Ridge
Role: General George Washington
How often do you wear a costume?
Pretty much five days a week.
What do you do on Halloween?
I try to stay away from the eighteenth century. It’s a cop-out.
What’s your favorite event?
At a homestead in Pennsylvania. I showed up, it was dark. There were already about 500 tents set up, so with the look, and people singing eighteenth-century songs, you felt like you were transported back.

Eleanor Libine
Writer from Garden City
Role: A very cranky Dutch refugee
How long have you been doing this?
About six years, about ten a year. Usually I’m a camp follower attached to the British camp.
What’s your favorite role?
A French spy in the French-Indian War. Once I was captured by the Indians, and one was so cute, though half my age.
Why do you do this?
Historic preservation plus smart guys in uniforms. Do you ever get embarrassed?
I hate pumping gas when I’m in a colonial costume. I’m completely out of context.

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