It took five hours to travel north to Fall River, Massachusetts. We have stayed at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum four consecutive years for the anniversary of the murders of Abby and Andrew Borden, allegedly committed by Andrew’s daughter Lizzie. This year marks 122 years since the crime, and the first time my husband and I had roles in the annual dramatization.
Upon arrival, we settled our things in our third-floor room and met our cast mates for 4:00 p.m. rehearsal. We ran lines and practiced scenes for the following day’s performances.
When everyone was comfortable with their parts, the group walked to the local pub, Taphouse for a bite to eat before more preparations for the big day. I picked at my burger, exhausted from a draining week and nerves preventing any appetite. All I wanted to do was sleep, but there was more work to be done once we returned to the Borden house.
We were fitted for costumes that evening. My husband portrayed medical examiner, Dr. Dolan. His own clothes comprised the character, all he needed to do was choose a cravat. I thought he looked rather handsome.
I played Alice Russell, neighbor and close friend of the Borden sisters, Lizzie and Emma. Alice’s lavender and white dress required no alterations, my boots that made the trip elevating the costume to just the right height. A brooch was added for decoration, making Alice quite the style maven.
It was time to decorate after the costume fittings. If you’re performing a dramatization in the actual rooms where murders happened, there must be blood. Once the bloody sheet that covers Andrew Borden’s body was located, it was time to bloody a door and picture that hangs above the couch where Andrew met his demise. Of course, the blood splatter needs to be as historically accurate as possible.
I had the honor of sullying the room. There is a technique for proper application of blood, which comes from a jar of currant jelly. A fork is used to flick the jam, which leaves the desired consistency and drip. For historical accuracy, the jam must form an arc on the picture. I did manage to get some “blood” on myself, but that’s because I was having fun with the application. (Much to the owner’s relief, the jam is easily removed from surfaces).
The following morning was show time, and the date of death for Andrew and Abby Borden so many years ago. I gobbled a granola bar for breakfast before becoming Alice Russell. After changing into the dress and having my hair crafted into a French twist, I was ready to meet the public.
My scene was on the second floor of the house, starting in Lizzie’s room and finishing in her parents’ room. For the most part, I delivered my lines as written, except for one unfortunate group who heard the Cliffs Notes version of Alice’s story. “They were all poisoned. She left. She was overwrought.” Oops, for one tour I forgot some details, but the other eight tours were for the most part spot on.
We had an hour lunch break in the house, where the cast enjoyed pizza and sandwiches. For dessert, we snacked on a sheet cake emblazoned with, “You can’t prove a thing,” complete with a female hatchet-wielding cake topper. The cake was sliced by our own Lizzie Borden, played by Carol Ann Simone.
The Pear Essential Players performed eight sold-out shows, and an encore performance. The event was well covered by the press, and well received by the guests. Due to the increasing demand for tickets, the dramatization may take place over two days next year.
After the last show, we visited Oak Grove Cemetery, the final resting place of the Borden family. As new Pear Essential Players, my husband and I had the honor of placing flowers on the graves of Andrew and Abby Borden before observing a moment of silence in memory of the victims and the tragedy that occurred that morning.
Following Oak Grove, the cast readied themselves for dinner. Again we walked to the Taphouse to celebrate the end of a successful reenactment. We took the party back to Lizzie’s house, and had a great time.
The following morning was the hardest part of our trip, saying until next time to our New England and Ohioan friends. It wasn’t goodbye, as we plan to see them again next year. We’ll be in Salem, Massachusetts in October and we hope to see some of them then. We had a memorable experience and we thank those who made it all possible. You guys are the best.
Fall River Spirit Article On Second Street, Investigation Continues 122 Years Later
Herald News Article A Day in the Death of Andrew Borden
Herald News Article Lizzie Borden B&B Prepares For Anniversary Re-enactment, Tours
Special thanks to Shelley Dziedzic and Glenn Teza, whose photos may be used in this blog