Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, and Eleanor Roosevelt will come alive this week at Montgomery College’s 24th annual Chautauqua celebration at the Germantown Campus, July 11, 12, and 13. Actors/scholars will portray the historical figures, bringing to life this year’s theme of “Seeking Justice,” at the three-night, family-friendly event. The performances are sponsored by Maryland Humanities, a statewide nonprofit organization.
All three performances begin at 7:00 pm at Globe Hall, located in the High Technology and Science Center, 20200 Observation Drive in Germantown. Every performance is free and open to the public, and opens with live local musical and theatrical acts.
Living history performances are followed by question and answer sessions that spark spirited conversation and provide educational family fun. The Thurgood Marshall performance features an excerpt from the George Stevens, Jr. play, Thurgood, and will be followed by a dialogue with Dr. Lenneal Henderson. Henderson, an internationally recognized scholar, brought Marshall to life in the 2010 Maryland Humanities Chautauqua tour.
The events will kick off with Frederick Douglass on Wednesday, July 11. Frederick Douglass will be performed by Bill Grimmette. Frederick Douglass was a writer, orator, and abolitionist. He was one of the most important African American activists of the 19th Century. 2018 is the “Year of Frederick Douglass”— the bicentennial celebration of the Marylander’s birth.
Bill Grimmette, a living history interpreter, storyteller, actor, and motivational speaker who has worked in film, television, and on stage throughout the United States and abroad. He has appeared as Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, and Benjamin Banneker at Chautauquas in Maryland, Colorado, South Carolina, and at schools in the Northern Mariana Islands. He has also performed at the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center, and on National Public Radio. Grimmette has an M.A. in psychology from the Catholic University of America and has done post-graduate work in education at George Mason University.
The next evening, Thursday, July 12 will belong to Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a humanitarian, diplomat, and the longest serving First Lady in American history. She also advocated for fair labor laws, civil rights, women’s representation in government, and more social justice issues.
Eleanor Roosevelt will be portrayed by Susan Marie Frontczak—who has given more than 700 presentations as Marie Curie, Mary Shelley, Irene Castle, Clara Barton, and Eleanor Roosevelt across 38 states and abroad in her 17 years as a living history scholar. Frontczak says her biggest challenge with Mrs. Roosevelt is to choose what pieces of her immense life to include in any given presentation and so has developed four distinct programs to explore different aspects of Roosevelt’s life. She also works with both adults and youth to develop their own living history presentations, including authorship of the Young Chautauqua handbook for Colorado Humanities.
The final evening, Friday, July 13 will belong to Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights activist from Baltimore who broke barriers as the lead NAACP attorney in Brown v. Board of Education and as the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
Marshall will be portrayed by Brian Anthony Wilson, who recently appeared as the great man in a full production of George Stevens, Jr.’s play Thurgood at Olney Theatre Center. A professional actor, Wilson’s recent stage credits include Romeo & Juliet: A Requiem, The Diary of Anne Frank, Fences, and Titus Andronicus.
Chautauqua is supported in part by Old Line Bank, Baltimore County Commission on the Arts and Sciences, Talbot County Arts Council (with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council), and Karen and Langley Shook.