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  gwBBush.jpg (36346 bytes)
        George Washington with Mrs. Bush at the White House
          as Mark Twain and Benjamin Banneker look on.

A Brief History of the American Historical Theatre

      The American Historical Theatre
was founded in 1982 by William and Pamela Sommerfield as The Royal Pickwickians.  Arising out of Pamela's strong desire to write and produce programs about the Victorian era using its rich heritage of ballads, Music Hall songs and parlor music, the company soon expanded to include music and lectures about the 18th Century.

        Following a special request to present actual characters from Philadelphia history, The Royal Pickwickians gained a reputation for providing knowledgeable actor-historian interpreters of William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, and others.  The Sommerfields also found themselves writing plays and programs about such famous Philadelphia residents as Mary Cassatt and Elizabeth Graem Ferguson.  In 1987, Pamela Sommerfield was selected to play Quaker abolitionist and women's rights activist Lucretia Mott, the central character in a critically acclaimed one-hour film broadcast on PBS public television.

        In 1989, William Sommerfield was selected by Chief Justice Warren Burger to play George Washington for the Bicentennial re-creation of Washington's Inaugural Ride from Mount Vernon to New York to be sworn in as the first President of the United States.  Following several years of study of The Father of the Country, and a two-week residency at Washington's home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, Mr. Sommerfield  was well equipped to fill the role.  Since that time, he has devoted his full attention to a detailed study of Washington's life, writing hundreds of programs and plays on the subject. Mr. Sommerfield was the very first historical interpreter ever permitted to appear as Washington at Mount Vernon. (AHT's Dean Malissa is the second.)

        In 1992, The Royal Pickwickians officially became The American Historical Theatre (AHT), a non-profit corporation devoted to the dissemination of history in an entertaining yet educational manner.  AHT  carefully researches and is continually investigating new characters.  Each part is cast with full regard to portraits, accurate historical costuming and comprehensive knowledge of the character.  This kind of dedication to detailed professional character portrayals enables AHT's historical interpreters not only to work from carefully written scripts, but to interact and answer questions from audiences as well.  For example, when the (mock)  "Tryal of George Washington" was filmed for the BBC in London, AHT's Washington, Jefferson and Franklin appeared at the historic Inns of Court thoroughly prepared for cross-examination by a group of powerful American lawyers, but without benefit of, or the need for, a script.

        The American Historical Theatre offers hundreds of well known historical characters, stock and custom written scripts, plays and programs. AHT also presents professional training sessions for actors and docents alike.  AHT brings historical theatre to the world; art centers and colleges, historic sites and museums, special events, celebrations and promotions. Schools and other educational and cultural institutions also benefit from AHT's singular dedication to the fine art of historical interpretation. 

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William Penn with
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell

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ŠThe American Historical Theatre, Inc. 2008 Mt. Vernon St., Philadelphia, PA 19130   (215) 232-2690 (215) 236-9596 fax