Night at the Depot
Where: 1051 Fifth Ave. S., Naples
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday
Information: Call (239) 262-6525, or visit www.colliermuseums.com/events.php
In the 2006 hit movie “Night at the Museum,” Ben Stiller, playing a night museum guard, watches the exhibits come to life after closing time. It’s every imaginative child’s fantasy, and possibly even the fantasy of a few museum curators, too.
For curators, bringing a museum to life is exactly their goal, one usually accomplished through integrating interactive and multimedia exhibits with unique artifacts and in-depth interpretive programing. But, on Saturday, Aug. 27, the Collier County Museum, with the help of a few re-enactors, will literally bring the Naples Depot Museum to life in a “Night at the Depot.”
From 7 until 9 p.m., the public is be invited to a free event during which they can walk through the Naples Depot and interact with live exhibits, including 1950s tourists; a railroad station master; Ed Frank, inventor of the swamp buggy; and a former swamp buggy queen.
It’s an idea that actually came from a combination of places, including the 2006 box office hit. Because none of Collier County’s museums are open at night, the staff had been trying to find an appropriate nighttime event for the museum, and they’ve had success with re-enactment events in the past, having built their own Historically Speaking Theater Company for the production of “Killing Mr. Watson,” which played last fall.
Plus, they wanted to do an event specifically for local residents, something off season at a time when people who work full time could attend. From these criteria, next week’s Night at the Depot was born.
“We wanted to bring history to life,” explains the museum’s volunteer coordinator, Mary Margaret Gruszka, who has been a driving force behind orchestrating Saturday’s event. With a background in performing arts, Gruszka has been involved with everything from finding actors and assigning roles, to helping research costumes and time period-specific happenings for the performance.
And she’s quick to point out that these are actors, not re-enactors, stating, “They’re not really re-enactors. They are actors, but because the Historically Speaking Theater Company relates to history, we call them actor interpreters.”
For actor Joanne Cravitz, who will be playing an early tourist in downtown Naples, getting involved with Night at the Depot was a natural fit.
“I heard through the grapevine that Mary Margaret was interested in getting a group of historical reenactors together and I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of it,” said Cravitz. It will be the third production she’s done with the Historically Speaking Theater Company.
To prepare for her role, Cravitz has done extensive research on everything from the hotels they might have stayed at, to places they would have wanted to visit and nightlife that was popular at the time. “We had to decide whether we would stay at the Trails End Motel or Motel Stewart,” said Cravitz, adding, “I think we’ll choose the Stewart, they had air conditioning.”
And if Cravitz looks totally relaxed next to her “fake” husband next week, it’s because this is the second time the two have played each other’s spouses.
For Barry Nichols, her spouse for the evening, one of the most exciting things about the production is its malleability.
“There’s no script, we’re just going to be winging it, but we’ll try and keep the language and references correct to 1954,” Nichols says.
The two will be stationed next to a period-specific Chevy and an old Trails End Motel sign, and behind ropes, just like an exhibit. And, while the two may try to stand still, only springing to life once a visitor enters the room, Nichols isn’t so sure that’s actually going to happen.
“If you’ve ever tried to stay completely motionless, you know how hard that is,” he said with a grin.
Interestingly, this will not be the first time the Naples Depot has hosted a performance event, by any means. Although the building was used over the years mostly as a train station, the depot was repurposed during World War II for USO shows for troops serving at the Army’s local air base.
And on Saturday night, be aware of a dapper, smooth talking, real estate surveyor who may try to talk you into purchasing some “very nice land.” Remember, in the old days, “very nice land” was usually a euphemism for swamp.
But don’t be surprised if you get swept up in his pitch — or the whole event for that matter — being swept back into history with other visitors to the Collier County Museum.