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Robert Gleason Portrays William Penn In Final 2022-23 History Comes Alive Series
Bob Gleason as William Penn.
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 in the Coolidge Theatre at 104 Main Street in Wellsboro.
After the performance, the audience will be invited to ask Gleason questions.
William Penn is a Philadelphia treasure and Bob Gleason’s portrayal helps us realize that without Penn there would not be a town in which Benjamin Franklin is famous.
Born an unusual fellow to well-connected British parents, Penn sat inside and read books. His was a very different lifestyle from his partying mother and his sea-faring admiral father.
Traveling to Ireland and then to France, Penn hears a Quaker preach and, quite literally, a light went on for the young man. Less than pleased by their son’s new faith and advocacy, Penn refused to compromise his beliefs: he was willing to be disinherited, even to go to jail.
After the Admiral’s death, Penn inherited land in what came to be known as “Pennsylvania.” Traveling to his new property, he dedicated his land and his life to the creation of a Utopia. Penn advertised all over Europe for like-minded peace-seeking settlers willing to go to Pennsylvania as part of his Noble Experiment.
He set the precedent for tolerance, equality, and for using financial resources to create true and lasting value. Penn codified his plans for the Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties, 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 Oct. 14.
Penn worked hard to create good relationships with Native Americans, learning their language(s) and sometimes paying for land several times to several tribes claiming “ownership.”
His wife, Hannah Callowhill, was an able businessperson, who stepped in as unofficial Pennsylvania Governor from the time Penn suffered a stroke until his death.
Gleason has a degree in Theatre Arts from West Chester University. He has performed on stage, screen, television, radio, and in opera and ballet (Peter and the Wolf). While serving in the U.S. Army he toured Europe with the 7th Army Soldiers Chorus.
Joining the American Historical Theatre as James Wilson in 1991, the Bicentennial for the Bill of Rights, Gleason had been portraying this Founding Father for the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge since 1985.
Gleason terms his meeting with AHT’s William and Pamela Sommerfield as a turning point in his personal and professional life.
In-depth historical research and audience interactivity have become hallmarks of Gleason’s historical portrayals.
He has presented programs featuring nearly 150 historical figures, stretching over 2000 years of history.
These programs have taken him from Washington D.C. to San Diego, California, and from El Paso, Texas to Milwaukee, Wisconsin (21 states, so far).
He has performed at the White House Visitors Center, The Smithsonian Institution, Constitution Hall, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Ford’s Theatre, Independence Hall, The National Constitution Center, The Union League of Philadelphia, Valley Forge National Park, Federal Hall in NYC, numerous historic sites, and a long list of schools, libraries and other venues public and private.
He lives near Lansdale, PA with his wife of 35+ years, and a large stock of costumes, props, and books.
Those who purchased a series ticket for $75 will be admitted to this show.
Writing: Diane Eaton