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History prof's play reveals Ben Franklin as Chris Rock of 18th century

March 18, 2002

An Austin Peay professor of history has expanded his educational endeavors by producing a new genre of writing.

Dr. Richard Gildrie is well respected as an author of historical materials. However, after auditing a playwriting class taught by Professor of English Malcolm Glass and Dr. David Wesner, speech and theatre department, Gildrie ventured into new creative waters, writing a one-act play called "Ben and the Virtues." The play will be presented at 8 p.m., March 22-23, at Clarksville's Roxy Theatre.

With an extensive background in theatre in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles, South Orange, N.J., will direct her father's play.

Gildrie-Voyles writes film reviews for and, through Rutgers University's extension program, she assists schools and regional community theatres. She also consults on theatre management.
Derived from Ben Franklin's writings and other 18th century materials, "Ben and the Virtues" is a comedy. The action occurs in a Philadelphia tavern where Franklin and friends form a club, the Junto.

"My hope is to show the humor and thought of Franklin on the problems of leading a good life, especially the 'virtues,'" Gildrie says. "Much of it has to do with the relationships of men and women from Franklin's rather egalitarian perspective."

The play mixes characters based on Franklin's real friends with characters he invented, such as Poor Richard and Alice Addertongue.

"Ben Franklin was a wonderful comedian whose modern counterparts might be George Carlin or Chris Rock," Gildrie says. "He was more than the 'revolutionary as senior citizen' or a cardboard character commonly portrayed in our popular culture."

In part, Gildrie wrote the play as a tribute to the Roxy Regional Theatre in appreciation for all it means to the community in general and to his family, specifically.

For more information about the play, telephone 7699.