Riponites know well the story of how, in 1854, more than 50 citizens gathered on a cold, windy evening in the local one-room schoolhouse as anti-slavery Whigs, Free Soilers and Democrats and emerged as the first Republicans in the nation.

On Saturday, that scene will replay itself.

In the first of six performances this year, the newly formed Republican Party Historical Society will recreate the night the Republican Party was born.

“If These Walls Could Talk: March 20, 1854” will run about 60 to 70 minutes, and give a small audience a chance even to interact with the cast of eight actors. Tickets are still available.

The performance isn’t meant to be detached from the up-to-20 audience members who attend. Those who pay to watch are encouraged to ask questions and participate in the experience, much as the original Riponites did the night the Republican Party was born.

Randal Dietrich, creator and organizer of the event, described the evening as “organic.”

“The audience is encouraged to speak up,” he said. “The actors have lines in their script meant to encourage people to [speak].”

Otherwise, the event aims to take the audience far away from 2010, and to slip back to the world as it was in 1854.

The cast will be in period attire; horses will be parked outside instead of cars (attendees will be encouraged to park further away and leave their cars — and cell phones — behind).

Read the full story in the March 18 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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