| A number of
years ago a friend of mine was visiting from England. We travelled
to Washington D.C. to take in the sites. When we entered the Jefferson
Memorial I was stunned by the words engraved, in giant block
letters, around the inside of the rotunda: "I
have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every
form of tyranny over the mind of man." I bought a prints
of the memorial’s engravings, framed them, and gave two to
my brothers, keeping one to display on my wall at home. In Jefferson
I had found a hero, and in his words
and goals I had found a guide.
That was before I had any idea
that a career in First Person Historical Interpretation was a
possibility. I had just earned a bachelor’s degree in English
in 1996, and I was living in Philadelphia trying to
make it as an actor. For the next few years Jefferson remained
a quiet, but palpable, presence in my life.
At the time I felt that in order to pursue
acting I had to give up, to some extent, my interest in research and writing.
A change in perspective came to me in 1999, when I was working as a resident
actor at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. It was there
that a representative from the American Historical Theater observed my
acting ability and my physical resemblance to Jefferson. AHT soon offered
me my first opportunity to perform as Jefferson, and I quickly realized
that I had found work that offered the perfect chance to simultaneously
cultivate my passions for reading, writing, and theater. Perhaps more
importantly, I had found a means of learning more about the man whose
words had engraved themselves on my soul.
Each year that I continue in this profession I find
that the work grows more fulfilling. I am honored to carry on Jefferson’s
legacy of freedom of thought and expression to modern Americans. By embracing
Jefferson’s complexity, I find I can offer a unique perspective
that encourages open discussion about some of the most challenging aspects
of our nation’s history, while it rekindles in audiences the goals
of equality and liberty that remain, as Abraham Lincoln put it, the "unfinished
of all Americans.