News / USA

    Teen Actors Make Portraits Come Alive

    Unique summer job has students portraying historical figures

    Taylor Marsh performs for visitors at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
    Taylor Marsh performs for visitors at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

    Multimedia

    Susan Logue

    Teenagers are making portraits come alive this summer at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., this summer.  

    They put on makeup and make final alterations to their costumes. It’s like being backstage in a theater, but in this case the stage is the museum itself.  

    Dressed in a blue velvet suit and carrying a cane, just like the woman in the portrait behind her, Taylor Marsh looks like a younger version of educator and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune.

    She's one of 10 students participating in "Portraits Alive!" at the National Portrait Gallery. Like most of the students, she came to the program because she's interested in theater.

    Taylor Marsh performing as educator and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
    Taylor Marsh performing as educator and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

    “I had no idea what this program was going to be about,” says Marsh. She was told they would be doing tours of the museum, but the tours they give rely on acting skills.

    “I look for students who are interested in the performing arts,” says Geri Provost Lyons, who is in charge of the program.

    “They choose a portrait, and they do research on the people that are in these portraits, and then they perform in costume a monologue which they have written.”

    Students spend the first four weeks preparing, then perfecting and rehearsing their monologues in front of each other.  

    “Writing the monologue was the hardest part,” Marsh says.  She was one of the few students who didn’t pick an entertainer or movie star.

    Bethune was born in 1875, just a decade after the end of slavery. She founded a school for African American girls in 1904 and organized the National Council of Negro Women in 1932.  In 1936, she became an adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    “It wasn’t really the occupation I thought of, it was more the person in general,” says Marsh. “She was a strong woman, she had a lot of things going for her, and I wanted someone who was headstrong.”  

    Sydney Hall chose Hollywood star Katharine Hepburn, who died in 2003.  “I didn’t know anything about Katharine Hepburn. I was just passing her portrait and I thought she looked very angelic in it, and she looked very cool.”  

    Hall says the program has had an impact on her. “I don’t spend a lot of time in museums.  DC born and raised and I’ve been to all the museums, but now I’m actually taking the time to learn.”

    Rashawn Alexander portrayed Latin music star Selena, who was murdered by a fan in 1995 at the age of 23. She was an icon for young people, and Alexander was impressed by how she gave back to the community, offering a free concert to students who improved their grades.

    Student actress Rashawn Alexander portrays Latin music star Selena, who was murdered by a fan in 1995.
    Student actress Rashawn Alexander portrays Latin music star Selena, who was murdered by a fan in 1995.

    “I picked her because me and her have a lot in common," says Alexander. "We both want to see kids do well in our community.”

    Alexander says she, too, now takes time to read about the art work in the galleries, instead of just glancing at it.

    Geri Provost Lyons says that’s true of a lot of the students in the program. “They will take time to go to different museums and learn more and want to see more.”

    And that, she says, is one of the goals. As for the students, it doesn't hurt that they get paid for the performances - $7.25 an hour.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora