Accomplished oral interpreter John Dennis Anderson will portray 19th century writer and Civil War veteran Henry James at today's Oklahoma Chautauqua evening performance at Lawton City Hall.
Anderson, a professor at Emerson College, presents biographical performances of America's greatest authors, including James.
He also teaches and publishes in the field of performance studies and serves as a consultant on living history performance. He has been developing and presenting living history or Chautauqua performances since 1994. In addition to James, Anderson has portrayed William Faulkner, Robert Frost, Washington Irving and Lynn Riggs. He portrayed James as a Civil War solder in his first Chautauqua in 1994 in Tulsa. This week's appearance at Chautauqua is his sixth in Oklahoma over the past 20 years.
"Now 20 years later, I'm back in Oklahoma to perform as James in the context of a World War I theme," he said. "James was in his early 70s when World War I broke out and had been in England for 40 years at that point. He was living in Rye just across the English Channel from where war was erupting. So the war was very immediate. He was anxious for America to come and aid England and France."
Anderson said James was a British citizen in solidarity with the British people and who got caught up in the war as chairman of the American Volunteer Motor Corps.
"He encouraged Americans to donate automobiles and drive them as ambulances," he said. "In effect, he became a war propagandist in the last three years of his life."