How we got here……..
Beneath the cobblestones of almost every American city you will find the debris of the buildings which stood there before but underneath the streets of Portsmouth you will discover an underbelly teaming with scandal, intrigue, a little debauchery and a killer sense of humor. You just may have to look for it!
Throughout the years the teaching of history has been packaged in a variety of awful ways that for the modern student are just are not good enough anymore. Maybe it is because we are the cell phone generation that constantly needs new information to keep us focused or maybe it is because technology has allowed us to absorb things so much faster so that we need more information thrown at us in order to keep our attention. Whatever the reason we can assume that the study of English and History in this current world of megabytes and pixels are the unwilling victims of our attention deficit. So how do we fix that?
In a nutshell, make history more accessible, fun and a little risqué!. History does not have to be presented in a boring manner yet most school children get their first taste of living history through the meanderings of geriatric women who are wearing a gingham dress they made forty years prior from a Simplicity pattern. Once the drone of the uninflected voice starts rattling off dates like it was a laundry list we immediately shut down and assume that all history is presented this way. The modern adventurer is simply no longer interested. Therefore we know nothing, we lose our history and we become the people who are doomed to repeat it! There is another choice!
History is as relevant today as the day it was happening yet we continue to present it in ways that are as old as the forefathers we are talking about. I am reminded of the teacher played by Ben Stein in the movie “Ferris Bueller” who drones on in an endless whine so that one by one his students turn into spit-dripping zombies who are blankly staring at the wall clock wishing for the torture to be over. Hopefully their wait is at an end.
History in Portsmouth, NH is presented in a variety of wonderful ways yet no one presents it the way we do at the Portsmouth Underbelly Tour (underbellyports.net). Our underlying theme in this historically accurate, interactive tour is that history does not have to be boring. We accomplish this feat by presenting the history in a wry manner filled with wonder, sarcasm, wit, a sense of irony, bawdy jokes, anachronisms and with one foot firmly planted in the century we are presenting and the other foot in the modern world in which we live. By combining all of these elements we present history as if it were stand-up comedy where people make mistakes and often make history by making bad choices. Not only are people learning the history of the area they are also laughing while learning it and more importantly they are remembering it.
We are also realists and we know that people come onto our tour first and foremost to be entertained and that is where we start. Each story is filled with enough vaudeville humor to make the most delicate blush yet while they are cringing they are also aware of what is either making them laugh or shy away. If you want to unload a bunch of disconnected dates onto people the first thing they will do is disconnect. If a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down then a laugh, a giggle and a dirty joke help people remember the history of Portsmouth.
For the last nine years we have proven this on the streets of Portsmouth and people return time and again stating that they missed a piece of the tour because they could not stop laughing. So now we get a second chance to remind them why the streets they are now walking were as important 200 years ago as they are now. All of a sudden people are talking history while sitting with a round of drinks at the local watering hole rather than the score of the last game – and we are not talking just the nerds!
We at the Portsmouth Underbelly Tour believe this is a fresh approach and that it is the best way to entice those people who would pass over learning history in lieu of watching the latest Hollywood action flick. We will never convince everyone but with our tongue planted firmly in our cheek we are winning more converts than we ever thought. Good history is like a good recipe in that you have to throw in all the ingredients in their proper proportions: a little too much of one or not enough of the other and it all goes wrong. History doesn’t have to be boring because in reality it is saucy, racy, embarrassing, ridiculous and often hysterical! If you mix it all up right and serve it in a way people love to digest it then it can be down right delicious.
So are you hungry yet?