At the Colony & Crown Re-enactment
May 14 & 15 in Mount Prospect
Terry Kutz is a man divided. On weekdays he is a financial planner who never misses the Monday morning team meeting. But on spring and summer weekends, he sets aside his computer and spread sheets for something more low-tech but equally challenging. He portrays founding father Benjamin Franklin as part of an American Revolutionary War re-enactment group. Kutz as Franklin will be attending the Colony & Crown Revolutionary War Re-enactment in Mount Prospect on Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15 in Lions Park, 411 S. Maple Street.
Benjamin Franklin became his alter ego by chance about six years ago during a weekend re-enactment at Cantigny in Wheaton. He was a historic re-enactor portraying a rifleman and was asked by an organizer if he would portray Benjamin Franklin the next day. He received compliments on his performance and decided that it was time to hang up his rifle and become Franklin. As Franklin, he works to “entertain, educate and improve understanding of what went on at that time.”
The time period Kutz focuses on with Franklin is September and October 1776. “This is a time before he leaves for France. It was the latest time he was in America during the war. Wherever we are doing a re-enactment I explain that I am here settling my affairs in this area before traveling to France,” he says. “I also question visitors, especially the children to see if they support the colonies or the King. I warn them that the British want to know my travel plans so they can intercept my ship and throw me into prison in London. That’s absolutely what would have happened to Franklin if he’d have been caught. From a British perspective Benjamin Franklin was seen as a lightning rod for the rebellion.”
Kutz doesn’t use a set speech as Franklin. He likes to speak extemporaneously about a variety of topics. He sets up a portable office under a fly canopy using a variety of items to get visitors engaged in conversation and asking questions. On his antique writing desk, he places a copy of Poor Richard’s Almanac, a Leyden jar, some colonial currency, and a book written by Franklin about his scientific experiments. And, tucked just outside the tent entrance, is Mr. Franklin’s famous kite.
He has a gracious way of teaching his visitors 18th century manners as well. “I will always greet visitors with a “Good Day,” and begin from there. Sometimes visitors want to talk about current political problems with Benjamin Franklin but I will tell them that I know nothing about the situations they are discussing.” After all, within the boundaries of the re-enactment camp, visitors are spending some time in the 18th century.
“Children don’t always know who I am at first. They think I might be George Washington and I try to help them figure out my identity,” says Kutz. Having the kite handy helps these younger visitors determine his name and place in history. “We talk about that famous experiment and then I tell them more about Franklin and his life.”
Kutz also does school visits in character as Benjamin Franklin. During the last week of April he also traveled to Galena, Illinois, for the US Grant Pilgrimage.