The gist of the story is that the statue was to be a gift to America to celebrate its centennial, but it took a few more years to complete the project. Honestly, the link given above is a great summary with pretty pictures. Just the kind of thing I would have read on the ferry from Liberty State Park in New Jersey.
He carried a design and building specs of the statue on old parchment like paper. His accent was sort of between French and Italian; but that was to signify his place of birth: Alsace, southern France, near the Italian alps. We learned this through our conversation. He didn't just recite a pre-made speech, he asked where we were from and conversation went on a natural path.
We talked about the various places we lived, then we talked about where our immigrating ancestors came from. This part was my attempt at engaging the kids in the conversation. Which they did poke in a few questions from time to time.
This actor often mentioned that he thought he was living in a dream. He was representing the 57 year old Bartholdi, as if he had gone through a time capsule machine and landed on the island today; a little confused, but still very proud of his work. This actor researched his character thoroughly. The conversation was so natural, and everything he said taught me more about the designer and the politics behind the monument than I would have ever been interested in knowing before.
My son asked him, "Are you a ghost?"
"I don't believe in such things."
"Are you like Santa Claus?"
"Absolutely not. Say, What are those flying machines up there?" (diverting so as to not approach potential delicate subject, yet making son realize the relevance of the time Bartholdi lived.)
This actor really humanized history for me and my kids. I'm not sure if the kids will remember much of what we talked about. But I hope they remember Bartholdi was a real person who dedicated his life to a monument that now symbolizes the best of American ideals.
This is where the best intersections of my life and work happen. This improv actor really engaged me in learning and helped me enjoy the details through simple and friendly conversation. I want to see character actors in schools doing this kind of engagement so that history lessons are not just recited facts, but an awareness of the humans who made history; and the humans that make it relevant.
The sign near the gift shop says that Bartholdi was portrayed by Glenn Stoops. But the one we met was different, so I'm sorry to say I can't credit the correct actor. I'm sad that I can't find his website to send him a link to this blog post as my thank you. Instead, I'll try to call the park visitor center to get his name and see if I can at least properly credit him. It was a really neat experience.
#10 of 90in90 #LUBLogTribe.
We came back home, and topped of the day with an excellent dinner at our friends Jeremy and Amy's house. But more on that relationship in another post - because they represent both encouragement and primary audience for this blog.