. . . being a celebration of the Life, the acts
The Man In The Arena is a celebration of Theodore Roosevelt – the essential American. Owen Wister, who knew him well, called him “the most American American who ever lived!”
He is famous for what was supposedly his favorite saying: “Speak softly and carry a Big Stick!” In fact, his favorite saying was “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” He loved power, and he used power like no president before or since, not even Lincoln in wartime – but always with a profound sense of responsibility. He fought hard for regular people, he held out for high ideals, and he never preached anything he didn’t practice. That was the example he left us with. His courage, his honesty, his character, his energy and his profound vision for America are beacons shining through the ages. At his best, he showed us what we can be at our best, and taught us what it means to be Americans.
Our debt to him in this is almost beyond calculation. But even more than that, his attraction lasts as one of the most interesting men who ever lived – a man who was interesting because he was interested. There is no subject about which he did not thirst for knowledge: history, politics, philosophy, nature, linguistics, taxidermy, poetry – the list is endless. He loved books – he read in seven languages, including Portuguese. He wrote books – thirty-six books in all on a bewildering variety of subjects. He was a man who loved to talk philology with Harvard professors and bug collections with six-year-olds. His colossal and kaleidoscopic passion for life and learning is just another of the many layers of his personality and another cause for our admiration.
We can hardly pitch this show as a show about EDI. It’s about Theodore Roosevelt and he was a Victorian aristocrat. He was a 19th century man, not a 21st century one, and his ideas regarding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are hardly the ideals we pursue today. But I think we can pitch him, and pitch him very strongly, as a pioneer – as a man who saw the future and fought hard to see that ordinary people of all races and colors got what he liked to call “a square deal!”
Regarding Native Americans, TR was friends with Quanah Parker. Parker was the last of the great Comanche war chiefs, but because he was half White he escaped becoming a prisoner of war when the fighting ended. Parker was one of the six Indians who rode in TR’s inaugural parade in 1905. He and TR worked very closely together over several years on a pet project of TR’s: repopulating the buffalo herds in western Oklahoma.
Regarding African Americans. TR was longtime friends with Booker T. Washington. The first time a Black man ever sat down to dinner at the White House was when Washington accepted Roosevelt’s invitation during the first month of his administration. Also, Roosevelt sat on the board of directors at the Tuskegee Institute for many years.
There is also the story of Minnie Cox. She was a Black woman who was postmistress in Indianola Mississippi. Some of the local White folks didn’t like her and the Governor demanded that TR remove her. He at first refused, but when she began to get death threats he agreed, but he informed the Governor that since she had received the highest score of any applicant on the Civil Service exam he could hardly be expected to replace her with someone who had gotten a lower score. Therefore he would have to close down the Post Office and he hoped the good citizens of Indianola would not mind having to walk six miles to the nearest town to pick up their mail.
In the words of Derek Evans, who so aptly portrays President Theodore Roosevelt, To bring this astonishing man alive...is the purpose of The Man In The Arena.
Derek Evans is a professional actor and scholar who has spent a career of almost 40 years engaged in educational presentations for schools, colleges, museums and libraries. He has conservatory training at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and at New York University and holds bachelors and masters degrees from Northwestern University. He is a veteran of over 40 stage productions in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco.
In addition to his legitimate theatre career, from 1969 to 1988 he wrote, produced and performed in educational programs in association with Chicago’s Urban Gateways. These totaled almost seven thousand performances for more than two million students over a period of twenty years and included Shakespeare, opera and American and British literary adaptations.
Since 1995 he has concentrated on living history presentations on Theodore Roosevelt, which have now totaled over 500 performances.
Derek’s one man show was a huge success with the Lancaster County audience and makes for a perfect fit in these times of limited and flexible programming. I highly recommend The Man In The Arena!
Ware and Winter Centers
Theodore Roosevelt—The Man in the Arena