Living history and meeting cute

Now Circa Then 1
Matt R. Harrington and Kimiye Corwin play two historical re-enactors whose private lives become entwined in Carly Mensch’s Now Circa Then, a TheatreWorks prodution at the Lucie Stern Theatre. Photo by Tracy Martin

In the eighth grade, my class took a field trip from Reno to San Francisco — possibly the most exciting trip any 13-year-old has ever taken. One of our activities was a trip to Alcatraz, where we were given a guided tour by an actual ranger (this was before the audio tour conquered the island). As we toured The Rock, my life’s goals were falling in place before me. I would be come a National Park ranger, and I would be stationed on Alcatraz. But my tours were going to be better than your average point here, point there, rattle off facts kind of tour. My tours would give visitors a real sense of what it was like to be isolated so close to civilization. I would act out all the parts, from Bird Man to warden to cafeteria hash slinger.

Little did I know that I was fantasizing about something that already existed — a world of living history, people who reenact great moments from the past for the benefit of paying visitors. I never quite got around to fufilling this particular life goal, but I came close recently.

In honor of the play Now Circa Then, a romantic comedy by Carly Mensch (a writer on Showtime’s Weeds), I wrote a story for the San Francisco Chronicle about several local tour guides who don costumes to help visitors slip into a historical time warp.

Read the feature here.

I also went to see Now Circa Then and reviewed it for the Palo Alto Weekly. It’s a sweet, funny and entertaining show, but I ultimately found it disappointing because it happily paddled in shallow waters when it could have been just as enchanting — and much more moving — had it ventured into depths that are only hinted at.

Read the review here.


TheatreWorks’ Now Circa Then continues through April 1 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Tickets are $19-$69. Call 650-463-1960 or visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *