Four true stories unfold before your eyes about the Peel Mansion in Bentonville played by actors from the Rogers Little Theater.
“Tales at Twilight, Where History Comes Alive at Peel Mansion,” premiered Thursday night with another performance, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24.
Vignettes were performed in different rooms of the 6,000-square foot historic mansion.
The first vignette unfolds in 1886 where four women are in the mid-Victorian parlor. The estate is a working farm and Mary Emaline Peel, Katherine Peel, Ruby Hartman and Mary McGill are gathering and placing food into hampers as part of a ladies sewing society in the Presbyterian Church.
The actors tell of starving after the American Civil War and Mary Emaline Peel canning and preserving everything after the war to never feel hunger again. She creates the food baskets to give to families in Arkansas who go hungry. This theme is carried to the modern-day for this performance. The audience, as part of their admission, was asked to bring five canned goods for the local food pantry.
The second vignette takes place in 1896 in the men’s parlor at the Peel House. Democratic Party nominee William Jennings Bryan visits with his old friend and former congressman, Colonel Samuel Peel.
William H. Berry, former Governor of Arkansas and U.S. Senator and brother-in-law to Peel is also in the scene reflecting on, what seems timely, campaigning for the presidential election. All talk about the American Civil War and what the state of the country as well as Bryan re-enacting his impassioned convention speech talking of the gold standard.
A HAUNTED TALE
The third vignette most mirrors the time of the year, Halloween. It recounts the early-1920s in an upstairs master bedroom. A young girl, Margery English has fallen ill. Kitchen tables are brought in and surgery is performed on the girl to remove her appendicitis. She “dies” in the scene only to come back alive among the screams of her twin. Her face was covered with a sheet, which was believed to keep the soul in the body. As stories are now told, the girl came “back alive” because it’s believed she fell into what’s now known as a medically-induced coma.
At the time, after the girl’s death, the room was locked for 40 years. The owner believed the room was haunted because he would hear a girl crying in the room. The spooky tale is now infamous at the mansion because visitors are said to be pinched in this room.
“It’s perfect because my role is small and a short rehearsal period. It’s been a lot of fun,” said Kaye Cotton played by adult Margery English.
The actors learned their lines in two weeks with only a few days rehearsal and some hadn’t practiced the vignette until the night before.
“We’ve had an October event for the last ten years and this year it is tweaked and we did something different,” said Connie Hendrix-Peel, executive director of the Peel Compton Foundation, “Our board wanted to focus on culture and education and we decided to use this house and stories.”
Ticket prices are $25 for adults, $12. 50 for children under ages 6 to 11 and free for 6 and under. Prices includes a meal in the Carriage House.