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Monday, May 8, 2017

History Comes Alive Series with James and Dolley Madison is Friday, May 19

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Judith Kalaora and Kyle Jenks as Dolley and James Madison.
On Friday, May 19 at 7 p.m., Kyle Jenks and Judith Kalaora will bring James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, and his wife Dolley to life on stage in the Coolidge Theatre at 104 Main Street in Wellsboro. This is the second program in the Deane Center’s History Comes Alive series.

This performance, “James and Dolley: Opposites Attract” is an original stage play, historically researched and uniquely performed by these two actors who are also professional interpreters of their characters.

Jenks first met Kalaora at a living history event about a year ago. He asked if she would be interested in doing a show with him as Dolley. “Because we don’t live close to one another, Kyle and I have had many phone conversations about how we will create this power couple on stage,” she said.

The subject of this play is the relationship of the Madisons as husband and wife against the backdrop of history.

Madison is considered the “Father of the Constitution” and the “Architect of the Bill of Rights.” He served as Secretary of State from 1801 to 1809 and as President from 1809 to 1817. As first lady, Dolley played a major role socially and politically. She brought together different groups of politicians, diplomats and local residents at her weekly parties often attended by 400 guests.

He declared war against Great Britain. The play addresses perhaps the most dramatic part of the War of 1812, the burning of the White House in Washington, D.C. and the legendary story of how Dolley saved the full-length portrait of George Washington. Even though the Treaty of Ghent ended the war with concessions, President Madison was viewed as the victor.

Jenks, a native upstate New Yorker, lives in Albany. After witnessing a single classic military reenactment, he became a re-enactor in 2003, focusing on Colonial America. In 2007, he began performing as Douglas McKenna, his historically inspired Colonial American character. “I’m all about telling historical stories in a fun and accurate way,” he said.

In 2010, Jenks researched outdoor historical drama. He wrote, produced and directed his “Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama” in Mohawk, New York full-time for three years, from 2012-2015.

In October 2015, Jenks began doing historical interpretation. “James Madison is the only real historical figure I portray,” he said.

The acting bug bit Kalaora, a native of Massachusetts, when she was eight years old. After studying classical acting at Syracuse University, she returned to Boston and worked for the Freedom Trail Foundation. It provides tours of historic sites to make visitors aware of the key role the city played in the American Revolution. Kalaora portrayed Deborah Sampson, Massachusetts’ official heroine, who disguised herself as a man to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. When people kept asking Kalaora for more information, she wrote a one-woman show about Sampson and presented it in schools and retirement communities.

Her audiences kept asking her for more so in 2010, she founded History at Play. “I made it my life’s work to tell the stories of influential but often forgotten women,” said Kalaora. She is the artistic director and researches, writes, produces and performs the programs sometimes alone and sometimes with other actors. By 2016, she had created four more shows about women who influenced history and put together a team of male and female performers to give ensemble performances.

During the afternoon on May 19, Kalaora and Jenks will give a special presentation to students at the Rock L. Butler Middle School in Wellsboro.

Tickets are $15 for the 7 p.m. show. Children 12 and under accompanied by a paying adult will be admitted free.

For information or to purchase tickets, call the Deane Center at 570-724-6220 or visit

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