Kim Hanley – First Person Actor/Historian
Kim’s combined studies of the histories of American culture & domestic life, politics, dance, and music & song have contributed to a balanced perspective and presentation of our heritage and the women who did so much to advance it. When she moved to Philadelphia in 1997 to pursue an acting career, Kim’s plan was that the theatre would serve as only a temporary diversion from her dream of becoming a museum educator.
Having earned a BFA in Restoration and History of Decorative Arts from the State University of New York, she quickly combined her passions for history and theatre as an historical character in outdoor productions in Philadelphia’s historic district, and in Independence National Historical Park. Kim took a further step toward developing her craft later that year, when she met William and Pamela Sommerfield, the founders of The American Historical Theatre. With the Sommerfields and AHT she happily discovered that their work -sometimes called “historical character re-enactment”- could engage her in the civically worthwhile, intellectually challenging, and artistically fulfilling endeavors of an Actor/Historian. For thirteen years she devoted much of her time and care, both as the Associate Producer as well as a First Person Interpreter, to the American Historical Theatre in Philadelphia.
The art of bringing historical facts to life through theatre takes time and work to develop. Over the years Kim honed her dramatic skills during her appearances in stage productions such as the national tour of She Loves Me, in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to The Forum, with the Bristol Riverside Theater, and Mame with Rockwell Productions. The ability to teach as well as entertain children in a manner that respects their intelligence while it engages them on their level is one of the most difficult, and important, skills for a 1st-person interpreter. Kim developed this sensibility during numerous educational presentations at schools and historic sites, as well as in her roles in many productions with Storybook Children’s Musical Theater.
Ideally every aspect of a 1st-person interpretation contributes simultaneously to both the dramatic as well as educational impact of the presentation. With this in mind, Kim’s years of experience making clothing and costumes has played an important role in adding texture and substance to her historical portrayals. In addition to making her own costumes, Kim also creates outfits for internationally known 1st-person interpreters such as Dean Malissa as George Washington, many of the first person interpreters at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Steven Edenbo as Thomas Jefferson. One of the costumes that Kim designed and built for Thomas Jefferson was enthusiastically praised by Project Runway’s Tim Gunn. Departing occasionally from the specificity of historical costumes, Kim is also the chief costumer for the beloved MLB Hall of Fame Mascot of the Philadelphia Phillies, The Philly Phanatic.
Kim’s Associates Degree in Fashion Buying and Merchandising, also from the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, as well as her years of work in the fashion industry in NYC, helped lay a foundation of design understanding that Kim draws on today to invest scholarly history with accessible, tangible reality. Kim looks back with fondness to her earliest experiences on the stage, when, as a child she performed for The New York City Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Stutgart Ballet Companies. Through her youth she trained as a ballet dancer at The School of American Ballet, and later with Andre Eglevsky. She began singing in junior high school, setting out on a life-long appreciation of musical theatre. Her vocal work as soprano in several a cappella vocal ensembles, including Madrigalia, The Colonial Consort, The Liberty Tones and the traditional Christmas caroling group The MistleTones. Always in search of new challenges, she looks forward to exploring new facets of our nation’s history. Kim’s deep loves of stage performance, historical study, and educational outreach have found a happy home together in the craft of first person interpretation.