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Relive the Titanic’s maiden voyage: ‘No matter how successful it is, it’s going to be a disaster’

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On April 11, Fullerton’s Muckenthaler Cultural Center will present “An Evening Aboard The Titanic,” a reenactment of the famed shipwreck. It’s patterned after similar events held throughout the world each year commemorating the ill-fated voyage of the RMS Titanic.
(File photo)

Anyone who’s ever imagined what it would have been like to be a passenger on the Royal Mail Ship Titanic will get their chance on April 11.

That’s when the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton will create and host a historically accurate reenactment of the “unsinkable” ocean liner whose maiden voyage ended in tragedy when it struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912.

Guests will have the opportunity to see recreations of various areas of the doomed liner, including the deck, the bridge and the lower workings. They will be able to visit the Marconi wireless cabin to “converse” with its operator, John Phillips, and experience a re-creation of the Titanic’s orchestra.

They’ll also be able to meet and rub elbows with characters playing White Star Line Managing Director J. Bruce Ismay, Chief Engineer Joseph Bell, 5th Officer Harold Lowe and illustrious passengers such as John Jacob Astor and the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown.

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The event is the brainchild of Adam England, the venue’s tall, bearded chief programs officer. He’ll portray Edward J. Smith, the ship’s captain.

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Muckenthaler Cultural Center's Adam England, a lifelong Titanic enthusiast, created the special reenactment event for the historic Fullerton venue and will portray Edward J. Smith, the doomed ship's captain.
(Photo by Danny Torres)

A lifelong enthusiast of the ill-fated ship, England saw the 1953 movie “Titanic” in first grade.

“It was quite remarkable,” he said, “and something about it has always had a draw for me.”

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England was one of thousands who participated in the April 2012 Titanic Memorial Cruise, which duplicated the vessel’s route: “Exactly 100 years to the day, hour and second she foundered, we were above her grave in the middle of the North Atlantic.”

The idea for transforming the historic 1924 Muckenthaler House into a small-scale replica of the Titanic came to England from the 1957 movie “All at Sea” and Monty Python’s 1983 comedy “The Meaning of Life.”

“In both, everyday settings — a pier and an office building — are converted into ships,” he said. “As a young boy with an overactive imagination, the very idea of converting my house into a ship, notably the Titanic, fascinated me.”

As he got older, he began re-creating historic regions in everyday settings and hosting interactive-themed events.

In recent years at Muckenthaler, he has engineered, among others, a re-creation of a Prohibition-era rum-running cruise and a 1930s Egyptian archaeological dig.

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Adam England (third from left) and actors drawn from the historical reenactment community will portray the ship’s crew and some of its more illustrious passengers at Muckenthaler Cultural Center's "An Evening Aboard The Titanic” event on April 11.
(Photo by Kathy Williams)

He called converting the 4,800-square-foot mansion into a 46,328-ton Edwardian ocean liner “a bit of a stretch,” but said “props, a few set pieces and other nuances help create the illusion” of being on the Titanic.

The choice was made early on, England said, to enhance the event’s authenticity with a live orchestra rather than “canned” music.

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England noted that the standard playlist of all White Star Line ships of the era, which included “classical chamber music, waltzes and ragtime,” is readily available and will be re-created by musician Joan Kennedy and her quartet, The Festive Strings.

Attendees are encouraged to wear period attire. To further enhance authenticity, they’ll experience the “faint-grinding jar” passengers felt at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912 and will be given life jackets as they’re instructed to abandon ship.

A brief memorial service will pay tribute to those who perished.

England encapsulates the evening as reflecting the antithetical qualities of “mirth and reverence.”

“Guests will have a good time,” he said, “and we’ll be celebrating, but we’ll also be commemorating and revering the lives and legacies of those who were lost.”

As the tragedy’s magnitude “changed forever the way people travel by ship,” England expects the special event to prompt some introspection.

“I think many of us ask ourselves, `what would we do if were were in the same situation? Would we abandon ship? Would we stand aside to let others live? Would we create another means of escape?’”

But England is also able to joke about Muckenthaler’s upcoming reenactment: “No matter how successful it is, it’s going to be a disaster.”

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IF YOU GO

What: “An Evening Aboard the Titanic”

Where: Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave., Fullerton

When: April 11. Boarding begins at 7 p.m.; ship “departs” at 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $30 ($15 for Muckenthaler members)

Information: (714) 738-6595, themuck.org

Eric Marchese is a contributor to TimesOC. Follow TimesOC on Twitter @timesocofficial for more news and features about Orange County.


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