History Comes Alive series ends with William Penn | arts and entertainment
The Deane Center’s 2022-2023 History Comes Alive series will end at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12 with Robert Gleason portraying William Penn at the Coolidge Theatre, 104 Main St., Wellsboro.
After the performance, the audience will be invited to ask questions of Gleason.
William Penn is a Philadelphia treasure and Bob Gleason’s portrayal helps us understand that without Penn there would be no city in which Benjamin Franklin is famous.
Born to an unusual type of well-connected British parent, Penn sat indoors and read books. His lifestyle was very different from that of his party mother and sailor admiral father.
Traveling to Ireland and then to France, Penn hears a Quaker preach and, quite literally, a light goes on for the young man. Less than pleased with their son’s newfound faith and advocacy, Penn refused to compromise his beliefs: he was prepared to be disinherited, even to go to prison.
After the Admiral’s death, Penn inherited land in what came to be known as “Pennsylvania”. Going to his new property, he devoted his land and his life to the creation of a utopia. Penn advertised throughout Europe for like-minded peace-seeking settlers willing to go to Pennsylvania as part of his noble experiment.
It has set a precedent for tolerance, equality and the use of financial resources to create real and lasting value. Penn codified his plans for the Pennsylvania Charter of Freedoms, which presaged the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, which is why the United Nations celebrates its anniversary on Penn’s birthday on October 14. .
Penn worked hard to build good relationships with Native Americans, learning their language(s) and sometimes paying land several times over to multiple tribes claiming “ownership”.
His wife, Hannah Callowhill, was a capable businessman, who stepped in as unofficial governor of Pennsylvania from the time Penn suffered a stroke until her death.
Gleason holds a degree in Theater Arts from West Chester University. He has performed on stage, screen, television, radio, opera and ballet (Pierre et le loup). While serving in the US Army, he toured Europe with the 7th Army Soldiers Chorus.
Joining the American Historical Theater as James Wilson in 1991, the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, Gleason had portrayed this founding father for Valley Forge’s Freedoms Foundation since 1985.
Gleason calls meeting William and Pamela Sommerfield of AHT a turning point in his personal and professional life.
In-depth historical research and audience interactivity became hallmarks of Gleason’s historical performances.
It presented programs featuring nearly 150 historical figures, spanning 2,000 years of history.
These programs have taken him from Washington DC to San Diego, CA and from El Paso, TX to Milwaukee, Wisconsin (21 states, so far).
He has performed at the White House Visitors Center, Smithsonian Institution, Constitution Hall, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Ford’s Theatre, Independence Hall, National Constitution Center, Union League of Philadelphia, Valley Forge National Park, Federal Hall in New York, many historic sites, and a long list of schools, libraries and other public and private places.
He lives near Lansdale, Pennsylvania with his wife of over 35 years and a large stock of costumes, props and books.