American History Alive! The 17th & 18th Century

Come face-to-face with famous Americans in American History Alive! American History Alive! is an interactive, signature series enjoyed by hundreds of Compass families since 2012. First quarter, students will meet Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Martha Washington, John Adams, a Powhatan Indian, and an early English colonist. American History Alive! is a one-of-a-kind, weekly rendez-vous with key figures in American History. These characters are brought to life for students though engaging presentations by professional, costumed, living history interpreters. Students will connect faces, personalities, humor, and fun facts with influential characters in America’s history.

Register for American History Alive! Here: Quarter 1: 17th & 18th Century

Living history interpreters are the professionals employed by museums, historical sites, and conferences. They have typically studied their historical character for years and tell their stories and contributions in a compelling, first-person narrative. Presentations are conversational in style, often involve the audience, and conclude with spontaneous audience Q & A. Living history presentations are scheduled in chronological for families who wish to use the program as a roadmap for a study in American history, and workbooks of biographies and activities are provided. Meet our first quarter presenters:

9/9/2024: Powhatan Indian Interpreter, Coleman Courtney of Aylett, VA. Ms Courtney is a member of the Sappony tribe of southwestern Virginia. She is a Powhatan historical interpreter at the Henricus Historical Park where she discusses the daily life and culture of 17th century Powhatan peoples and demonstrates reproduction artifacts of daily goods and items while also highlighting her own Sappony tribal heritage. Ms Courtney attended Mattaponi Indian School from fifth grade through high school. She then taught at the school for two years until she became involved in developmental programs for preschool aged children. She teaches history for the education department at Henricus Historical Park and is a community linguist involved in Yesa Sahi and Algonquin language reclamation and revitalization initiatives. Ms Courtney homeschooled four of her seven children through 6th grade and led local homeschool programs and field trips.

9/16/24: English Colonist Interpreter, Will Tharpe of Williamsburg, VA. Mr. Tharpe is a historical interpreter at the Henricus Historical Park in Chester, Virginia, where he engages with visitors about aspects of 17th century English colonial life in Virginia. Mr. Tharpe demonstrates skills such as blacksmithing, tobacco planting, soldiering, and cross-cultural trade while making comparisons to daily life back in England. He is a public history and museum professional, who is passionate about American history, research, interpretation, and education through hands-on interpretive techniques. Mr. Tharp also works as an adjunct professor of history at John Tyler Community College. He worked for two years as a living history interpreter at Colonial Williamsbur and also at the St. John’s Church Foundation, the Library of Virginia, and the Virginia Museum of History Culture. He earned a Masters of History from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2021 and a Bachelors of History with a minor in Museum Studies from the University of Lynchburg in 2019.

9/23/24: Benjamin Franklin as portrayed by Robert Devitis of Philadephia, PA. Mr. Devitis has portrayed Benjamin Franklin for 10 years. He conducted years of research before stepping out as “The First American.” He can regularly be spotted portraying the scientist, inventor, and statesman around Philadelphia at historic sites such as the Liberty Bell, colonial Christ Church, and Independence Hall. He portrays Franklin at corporate functions, charitable events, schools, libraries, museums, and special events. He is known for engaging audiences with Franklin trivia questions. Interestingly, Mr. Devitis is also known for his specialized, walking tours of Philadelphia which are chock full of historical details and “personal” Franklin tidbits, and he is also regularly invited to appear at weddings which feature a Philadelphia flair. Mr. Devitis previously performed at Compass in 2021.

9/30/24:  Martha Washington as portrayed by Betty Brown of Alexandria, VA. Ms Brown portrays Martha Washington at Mount Vernon on the weekends. She has worked as a senior historical interpreter at Mount Vernon for eleven years, and guests can also meet her on focused tours of the main house, gardens, and the enslaved peoples’ tour. Ms Brown delivers an warm, welcoming portrayal of Mrs. Washington who gets to know her audience members and chats with things they have in common while reflecting on her and the first Presidents’ lives.

10/7/24: Thomas Jefferson as portrayed by Steve Edenbo of Philadephia. Mr. Edenbo has portrayed Thomas Jefferson since 2001 at such venues as The National Archives in Washington, DC, and Independence Hall, the Declaration House, and Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. He has been featured on the History Channel and has appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report”. He has shared Jefferson’s life and legacy at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., and institutions such as the Smithsonian, Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, American Legion, the VFW, the US Mint, and the University of Virginia. Mr. Edenbo earned a BA from Dickinson College, where he focused on research and writing with additional experience in theater, improvisation, and voice. Mr. Edenbo previously performed at Compass in 2012, 2014, 2017, 2021, and 2022.

10/14/24: John Adams as portrayed by Peyton Dixon of Kingston, NJ. Mr. Dixon has portrayed John Adams since 2000. He discovered the world of first-person interpretation as an extension of his more than 25-years experience as an actor and performer and his passion for American History. He has portrayed Adams at venues such as Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Federal Hall in New York, and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. He has also taken Adams to television with A&E’s biography of John Adams and on PBS with the documentary “First Freedom, the Fight for Religious Liberty.” He also had the opportunity to portray Adams in the live theater performance of “1776.” He has performed in over 40 states. Mr. Dixon earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from Otterbein College of Westerville, Ohio. His goal is to bring to light the accomplishments as well as the imperfections of John Adams, and to reveal the very real man beneath the public persona. Mr. Dixon previously performed at Compass in 2014, 2017, and 2021.