Meet first lady Eleanor Roosevelt at The Woodland

MAP-eleanor roosevelt-WMAPLEWOOD, NJ — Admirers of the “First Lady of the World” will have an opportunity to hear from Eleanor Roosevelt as the Durand-Hedden House, in partnership with the Maplewood Township Office of Cultural Affairs, presents a first-person historical interpretation of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt at The Woodland, 60 Woodland Road in Maplewood, on Sunday, March 20.

This free performance is presented in honor of Women’s History Month.

This first-person historical interpretation, “Eleanor Roosevelt: The Early Years,” is presented by Rene Goodwin of the American Historical Theatre. It allows attendees to meet the remarkable Eleanor Roosevelt prior to World War II in her initial years as first lady and to share her passions as well as her pains, while looking back in time at America and the world.

History enthusiasts might recall that Roosevelt visited Maplewood in the 1920s and attended a Maplewood Woman’s Club meeting to express her support for the League of Nations.

Philadelphia-based actress and vocalist Rene Goodwin studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, has performed in a stand-up duo and serves as a musical mentor for the Philly Pops. She joined the well-known American Historical Theatre in the 1980s and developed a trilogy of presentations on Roosevelt’s life, and has gone on to portray other historical figures, such as Dorothy Parker and Golda Meir.

Goodwin has appeared at numerous venues such as the White House Visitor Center, the Theodore Roosevelt Museum, the National Archives and the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge.

Bringing history to life for local residents in innovative and thoughtful ways is one of the main objectives of the Durand-Hedden House, and this event was developed with that mission in mind. Once monthly between September and June, Durand-Hedden House hosts such programs that for the community.

“We like to interest and engage people in history,” Durand-Hedden President Susan Newberry, Maplewood’s town historian, said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “We do interactive history lectures, exhibits, and we’ve also found that dramatic productions are a great way to attract attention.”

Newberry said the Durand-Hedden House had previously worked with the Philadelphia-based American Historical Theatre a few years ago when the founder of the organization came to Maplewood to do an interpretation of George Washington. The performance was met with a positive response and Newberry and her colleagues knew it was something they would revisit.

“For Women’s History Month we wanted to see who they had on their list of characters, and when we saw that Eleanor Roosevelt was on there, we knew that she would be a good fit,” Newberry said. “She’s a universally respected woman in history, and there are a lot of strong women in our town, and a lot of people who are interested in drama and theater, so we knew it would be perfect.”

Andrew Fishman, director of the Maplewood Office of Cultural Affairs, also believes that the upcoming performance is a seamless match to present in Maplewood.

“I’m excited that we are able to have this event in Maplewood, and especially because it’s taking place in The Woodland, which is an 80-year-old building that is a historical landmark in its own right,” he said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “I hope that people will come out to see it, and will really enjoy the performance.”

Doors for this performance open at 1:30 p.m., and the show begins at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.durandhedden.org.

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