President James Madison died in 1836, but on Thursday he makes his way to Oklahoma, as Actor Bryan Austin will portray the nation’s fourth president at the Oklahoma History Center.
“The opportunity to share a special program featuring President James Madison re-enactor is the continuation of a long-standing initiative by the Oklahoma History Center to share world-class interpreters and their stories with the public,” Dan Provo, director of the Oklahoma History Center, said in a release to NewsOK.
Austin represents the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and portrays President Madison in performances worldwide. According to its website, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is a living history concept that uses modern technology to tell the stories of America’s past.
“Through the assets we have, we’re able to go back in time and bring those days to life,” Josh Gage, junior political science major, said. “It’s cool to have someone who portrays this president come in and actually have history speak through him.”
Gage has previously attended portrayals of past presidents, including one of Franklin D. Roosevelt – an experience that he said was enjoyable.
“The actor’s speech – if you compare it to actual recordings of Roosevelt – is spot on,” Gage said. “Through this guy who plays James Madison, people will actually be able to see early America. His performance will reflect what life was like in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
According to Gage, Madison is an “underlooked” founding father, and he believes that Austin’s portrayal will bring more awareness to the former president.
“He helped in writing a lot of the legislation that we currently have, he was the fourth president and he plays a huge role in our government and our history,” Gage said. “He doesn’t have the grandeur or military presence of George Washington, he doesn’t have the intelligence of Benjamin Franklin and he doesn’t just strike a chord like Thomas Jefferson does. He kind of flies under the radar just because he isn’t as well known.”
Austin himself has shared his thoughts on the public’s limited unawareness of Madison.
“In the pantheon of our American founders, James Madison has often received a quiet seat in the corner of our consciousness,” Austin said in a guest blog post for makinghistorynow.com. “In my mind, this is one of the faux pas we could commit in the study of our history and truly is one of the greatest delights I find in study and playing of the ‘Great Little Madison’ on a daily basis.”
The free event will have limited seating, so early arrival is recommended.
“It’s definitely an interesting opportunity for history-buffs of all ages because you’re not ever going to be able to see something quite like this,” Gage said.