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Performance Marks Women's History Month

Photography by Hoag Levins ...| ...March 13, 2005

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CAMDEN, N.J. -- Antonia McQuown, an actress from Philadelphia's American Historical Theatre, re-enacted Dolley Madison at the height of her fame as First Lady in a Marcn 5th performance marking the Camden County Historical Society's celebration of Women's History Month. The "Tea With Dolley Madison" performance took place in the Society's Boyer Auditorium. "Ms. McQuown was amazing in her ability to bring Dolley Madison so vibrantly to life," said Society executive director Linda Gentry. "We wanted this event to showcase women who made a difference in history and I can't imagine how it could have been done any better than this." Also see larger photo.

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After the guests were seated, Dolley Madison burst through the rear double doors of the auditorium, making the grand but exasperated entrance of a woman whose elegant home had just been burned down. Her performance was set in 1814, shortly after the British had invaded the new capital city and set fire to its structures. The actual gutted White House is shown in the period illustration (above, right) from the Library of Congress. Also see larger photo.

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Never leaving character, Ms. McQuown even answered audience questions at the end of the performance as a woman emotionally entangled in the civil, social and political affairs of 1814. The Philadelphia actress has been performing Dolley Madison for 17 years and has made all of her costumes, including the flamboyant feathered turbans for which Mrs. Madison was famous. "Mrs. Madison's colorful costuming is interesting but superficial," said Ms. McQuown as she resumed her own identity after the show. "What really drew me to the character was her extraordinary personality. She was charismatic, genuinely kind, extremely intelligent and very creative. Dolley Madison went from being a common young Quaker woman to a precedent-setting First Lady with very little formal training. And she did it magnificently. Foreign dignitaries who were used to the life and style of Europe's royal courts said Mrs. Madison could hold her own to any of Europe's queens. And she did it all by herself. She was a very rare woman and an inspiration to all." Also see larger photo.

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