He has portrayed Thomas Jefferson more than 1,000 times in front of audiences including Presidents Bush and Clinton, justices of the Supreme Court, members of the Cabinet, state legislatures, scholars and others in more than 45 states.
His name is Clay Jenkinson and he has scheduled performances for Feb. 18-20 in Hays.
Jenkinson, a Rhodes and Danforth scholar who holds degrees in humanities from the University of Minnesota and Oxford University, began doing first-person characterizations of Meriwether Lewis in the early 1980s. In 1989, he was one of the first recipients of the Charles Frankel Prize, which is the National Endowment for the Humanities' highest award.
According to Greg Liggett, assistant director of the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Jenkinson will give four presentations, each depicting a different historic figure. The presentations are being sponsored by the Sternberg Museum and High Plains Public Radio in Garden City.
The Thomas Jefferson Hour is a nationally-aired program on HPPR that features Jenkinson doing a first-person characterization of Jefferson. Every year, he is invited to present somewhere in the region as a fundraiser for the radio station, which covers much of western Kansas, eastern Colorado and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.
The performance on Wednesday, Feb. 18, will be at 7 p.m. in the Black and Gold Room in the Memorial Union. Jenkinson will portray Meriwether Lewis in honor of the bi-centennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Anyone affiliated with FHSU will be admitted free, and the cost for the public is $5.
Two performances are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 19. The first will be at noon in the Black and Gold Room of the Memorial Union. All FHSU faculty are invited to attend this performance, which will follow a lunch sponsored by the president's office and the FHSU Faculty Research Association. Jenkinson will portray Robert Oppenheimer in his role as a scientist with the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during WWII. This presentation and luncheon are free.
That evening, Jenkinson will portray Thomas Jefferson. A reception will kick the evening off at 6 p.m. with the lecture following at 7 p.m. at The Sternberg Museum.
The cost for the reception and lecture is $25 per person or $40 per couple. The lecture alone will cost $5.
His final presentation will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 20, in the Black and Gold Room of the Memorial Union. Jenkinson will portray Jonathan Swift in this performance.
Liggett hopes to interest instructors at FHSU in integrating some of the information from Jenkinson's presentations in their classes in the spring 2004 semester.
"I would be interested in helping teachers incorporate any of these programs into their classes next semester," he said.
Students, he said, would gain a lot from attending any one of Jenkinson's performances.
"I would like to encourage instructors at the university to encourage their students to go," he said. "Because these tie into a lot of different aspects that they could work into their classes."
Liggett recommends that people take the time to go out and enjoy at least one of these presentations.
"Clay Jenkinson is a well-respected and acclaimed historian and has won many awards," he said. "He's an amazing speaker, so people should take advantage of him while he's here."
For more information, contact High Plains Public Radio at 1-800-678-7444.