The Nature of Historical Performance

John Douglas Hall is not an actor in the conventional sense of the term, nor a “character actor,” nor a re-enactor. He has not entered his profession as a result of some prior stage experience, nor does he “work from scripts,” seek roles, get “gigs,” wear makeup, or engage in theatrics.

Mr. Madison was not an actor by profession; Mr. Hall is not an actor by profession.

Yet the two men are very naturally similar in their appearance, in their command of the subject at hand, in their interest in politics and government, law, religious freedom, natural science, and a host of other subjects.

Circumstances have created a mutual relationship where Mr. Madison may rely on Mr. Hall for a meaningful legacy to his name and reputation two hundred years later, and Mr. Hall may rely on Mr. Madison for a meaningful and edifying education—a veritable prescription for living what Aristotle called “the good life.”

Mr. Hall has applied himself to as thorough an acquaintance with the life of James Madison with what original resources have been available to all historians. Mr. Hall does not seek to offer an historian’s acquaintance with facts, figures, and exact dates, or to place the life of Madison in some historical context as would an historian.

Rather, Mr. Hall presents James Madison in the context of Madison’s own time, with an extraordinary command of Madison’s situation, Madison’s accrued experience, and Madison’s own sense and perspective of the day. In this respect, there is no effort to expatiate on some grander historical context, no effort to interpret or put into some historical perspective the statements and actions of James Madison.

Those who have found themselves “in the company of James Madison” are essentially left to make their own deductions, form their own opinions, and place what significance they will on the meaning of Madison’s words and actions.

Mr. Madison was not an historian by profession; Mr. Hall is not an historian by profession. However, the accrued wisdom, copious familiarity with the times, and the academic discipline exercised by both James Madison and John Douglas Hall may lead some people to make the mistake of thinking that both the men are historians.

John Douglas Hall’s profession is that of an historical performer. He is independent of any theatrical troupe, or acting company, or re-enactment organization, and his professional life as an historical performer is that of a dynamic, evolving representation of James Madison. It is a unique approach to history, to endeavor to absorb oneself on a day-by-day basis into the vital intellectual life and penetrating mind of a very prominent individual in the early period of the American Republic.

It is here to be noted that, from time to time, Mr. Hall may appear with other historical performers representing the same period in American history. However, for the sake of historical integrity and a respect to the dignity appropriate to the character of James Madison, Mr. Hall is particular in the choice of forums, circumstances, and historical performers in which and with whom his representation of Madison is to be given and received.