For actor, sweaty historic Philly gig beats making lattes

Tourists visiting historic Philadelphia this Memorial Day weekend get to see costumed re-enactors bringing lost times back to life. 

This was opening weekend for new impersonators hired by the Historic Philadelphia organization.

One of those actors, Ken Sandberg, gave an interview about his new job while standing outside the Betsy Ross House on Arch Street.  He is playing the role of John Dunlap.

Q.  John Dunlap, what did he do?

A.  Mr. Dunlap was the printer of the Declaration of Independence, which is of course kind of a big deal.  He was also a trooper with the Philadelphia Light Horse Company.  He was a member of the Continental Army who rode with General Washington as sort of a member of the personal bodyguard through much of the war.  Participated in the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown.  This is my first time doing this this weekend so it’s been a big, exciting, trial-by-fire kind of experience.

Q. Did you always know you wanted to be Mr. Dunlap?

A.  Mr. Dunlap I had never heard of before a couple of years ago, so I can’t say that’s always been my career plan.  I have always known I wanted to be a performer and then when I came to Philadelphia, I saw the people who do this all summer long playing the Founding Fathers, playing all these great people I’d read about from history and I decided I wanted to do that!Q. You have some heavy clothes on. What all are you wearing?

A. Lots of layers!  I’m wearing a jacket on top of a weskit, or a vest, on top of a shirt.  I’m wearing pants, breeches, with long stockings on.  I wear a hat.  So lots of extra weight I wouldn’t normally be wearing in this 80 degree heat.  I come to work in T-shirt and shorts and then I change into this.Q. If you weren’t doing this, do you have an idea of what else you’d be doing?A. Probably something really boring.  I mean a lot of performers, a lot of actors, end up selling coffee, waiting tables, selling T-shirts.  I put in my time doing that and I’m very grateful now I don’t have to spend my summer serving food, because I’ve found this performance outlet!

The “Once Upon a Nation” program of Historic Philadelphia stations trained actors at 13 Storytelling Benches around the historic area.  It also sponsors other historical performances at various sites through the day.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal