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February 7, 2012
By Claudene Wharton
Nevadans who have toured George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate have likely seen actor Dean Malissa, the official and sole George Washington historical actor at the estate. Besides his work at Mount Vernon, Malissa has portrayed Washington in TV productions for The Discovery Channel, NBC, ABC, the National Geographic Channel and others, in various documentaries, and at the White House, the Smithsonian, U.S. Embassies and around the world, including in France and China.
Nevadans who haven't yet made it to Mount Vernon will have a unique opportunity to get a taste of Malissa's work in celebration of Presidents' Day, when he will portray Washington in "Fractured Union: A Conversation with George Washington, Alexander Hamilton & Thomas Jefferson," 7 - 8:30 p.m., Feb. 10, at the University of Nevada, Reno, in the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center's Redfield Auditorium.
The free presentation will be a discussion moderated by Scott Casper, dean of the University's College of Liberal Arts and George Washington historian. Casper will lead the "former presidents" in a discussion of topics that continue to shape and divide our nation today, such as the economy, the national debt, the use of military force, state versus federal rights and education.
The program is free, presented through the Nevada George Washington Teaching Ambassador Program and George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, Museum and Gardens, with funding from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and Nevada Humanities.
"We were one of a few fortunate states to be awarded the benefits of this ambassador program that brings educational programs for teachers, students and the general public on Washington and Mount Vernon to our state for two years," explained Casper.
Casper has been involved with Mount Vernon's educational programs for several years, since being recruited to teach at weeklong residential summer programs at the estate where K-12 teachers learn more about Mount Vernon and Washington's life to share with their students. Casper shares his research on visual images of Washington and how Washington has been depicted through the years. While at the estate, Casper's immersion in its history inspired him to research and write Sarah Johnson's Mount Vernon: The Forgotten History of an American Shrine, a book that earned impressive reviews for its engaging story of the life of a former slave at Mount Vernon.
Joining Casper and actor Malissa, will be Ian Rose, portraying Alexander Hamilton, and Bill Barker, portraying Thomas Jefferson. Rose has been portraying Hamilton at locations across the country for 11 years, including at Hamilton's home, the National Archives, various National Park Service locations and other national landmarks and museums. He has argued Constitutional cases before The People's Court Judge Marilyn Millian, as well as in presentations for the U.S. State Department. Barker has traveled the world performing as the third president, portraying him at Colonial Williamsburg for more than 20 years, and has also been in several documentaries.
In addition to the public performance Friday evening, Casper and the trio of actors will be offering two free, longer, more in-depth "Fractured Union" discussions for K-12 teachers, one at the University of Nevada, Reno on Saturday and one in Las Vegas on Thursday.
"These half-day programs for teachers are designed specifically to enrich their classroom discussions of how the ideals and policies of a new nation continue to guide our national policies and debates today," Casper explained.
The trio will also be presenting for students at Cold Springs Middle School in Reno this Friday afternoon. Those attending the free, public performance Friday evening at the University of Nevada, Reno are encouraged to arrive early and park in any of the nearby "Silver 12" parking lots, off Evans Avenue, by Record Street. Parking in the campus lots and meters at this time will be free of charge.
To register for the teachers' programs, or for more information on any of the discussions being offered, contact Cindy Plummer at (775) 997-9209 or Cplummer@mountvernon.org.