When the flashlights of museum patrons flickered his direction, Jeff Bolich puffed his chest, slipped into his best radio voice and came to life with a sermon in true 1836 Protestant preacher fashion. Until he forgot his lines.
“My brain froze,” Bolich said, laughing as he recalled the moment. “So I opened my Bible where I keep my lines written down and I acted like I was looking for the next verse. Most of the other actors don’t have a prop to use as a cheater.”
Remembering lines is no longer an issue for Bolich, who has played the role of a Protestant preacher at Star of the Republic Museum’s annual Night at the Star of the Republic Museum for the last four years. His wife, Denise Campbell, plays a school teacher.
Bolich, Campbell and 13 other period actors will bring the museum to life once again Saturday, Nov. 1 from 7-9 p.m. During the event, museum lights will be turned down and live actors will step forward from exhibits to tell the story of the Texas Republic. Visitors are encouraged to bring flashlights to explore the museum. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and free for children ages 6 and under. Anyone with a current Blinn College ID receives free admission.
Before becoming a Night at the Museum actor, Bolich volunteered for seven years as a demonstration woodworker at Barrington Living History Farm at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. Bolich acted in third-person, carving treenware—handcrafted wooden, domestic items—with hand tools, just as it would have been done in the Republic of Texas era. As a museum actor, Bolich uses the first-person perspective, engaging with patrons as if their flashlights have awoken him out of the late 1830s.
“I try to get a reaction from the people coming through,” Bolich said. “When I start talking, I want to capture their attention. When they leave, I want them to think, ‘That was pretty good. Let’s come back again.’”
Anne McGaugh, the museum’s curator of education, invited Bolich and Campbell to become actors five years ago, and they’ve participated every year since.
“It’s a way to give back,” Bolich said. “We absolutely love the park and love the Star of the Republic. This is where Texas started. There’s a whole lot of history and it’s a whole lot of fun living the history and sharing it with others.”
Star of the Republic Museum was created by the Texas Legislature and is administered by Blinn College as a cultural and educational institution. Its purpose is to collect and preserve the material culture of the Texas Republic from 1836-1846 and to interpret the history, cultures, diversity, and values of early Texans.
The museum is located off Highway 105 between Brenham and Navasota on FM 1155 at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. Daily museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.starmuseum.org or call 936-878-2461, ext. 237. Story and photo courtesy of Blinn College.