Volume 1, Number 4
Museum on Main Speaker Series Brings History to Life
By Tina Hansen
By remembering history, we create awareness of the experiences, struggles, and challenges that came before and more often not, we discover a parallel between then and now that gives context to why things happen.
What is interesting about history and how it is shaped is that it often comes down to one person making a significant impact that affects change and perceptions for future generations. Certainly, groups of people can create change, but it is often one person who leads an army, starts a movement, saves people from certain death, teaches and entertains.
Museum on Main has found an artistic way to capture and retell history through a dramatic spoken word performance to demonstrate how one person’s life made and changed history. There have been many great men and women whose actions and lives created the world we live in now, but without remembering their achievements, their cultural impact is diminished.
Museum on Main’s monthly theatrical series is called The Ed Kinney Speaker Series, named after former Pleasanton Mayor Mr. Ed Kinney, and it presents ten historical characters brought to life through a dramatic spoken word performance.
The performance style is called “Chautauqua” which began as an adult education movement in the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The performance is unscripted and is a spontaneous historical improvisational retelling of a person’s life.
“The Ed Kinney Speaker Series has grown and evolved due to the community’s response to the Chautauqua-style of performance. We started the speaker series in the Museum with presentations done like lectures. In those years, we got 25 people regularly attending. When we added historical Chautauqua performances, we noticed that attendance would increase. As a result, we have focused more heavily on the Chautauqua-style,” said Jim DeMersman the museum’s Executive Director.
The combination of the set, costumes, language and the historical figure makes for a compelling and creative way to experience a time in our past from the person’s point of view that made history.
This year’s series, which began in January and ends in October, centers on diverse historical characters from specific times in history, ranging from Booker T. Washington to Winston Churchill.
The museum itself is dedicated to highlighting history and, more importantly, preserving the history of Pleasanton. Museum on Main was founded in 1963 by local residents who were concerned about the rapid development in the Amador-Livermore Valley and their desire to preserve the region’s history.
Change is omnipresent, but history is permanent. When George Washington crossed the Delaware, a country was born and when Winston Churchill said “We will never surrender” a country was saved. Throughout time, individual men and women have achieved success and triumphs through their words and actions. The Ed Kinney Speaker Series lets us experience and remember their stories.
“The message was clear, people in our community wanted this type of performance and we are excited to be bringing them even more performances this year. It truly seems like we have caught onto something that reflects our philosophy of making history both fun and educational for our community,” said DeMersman.
The next season’s line up will be announced to members of the museum through the museum's newsletter that goes out in mid-September and to the general public in mid-November. Tickets go on sale to the general public on December 1st at midnight. Members of the museum will have an opportunity for advanced ticket sales.
For more information, you can visit their website at www.museumonmain.org/ed-kinney-series-an-evening-with.html.