Encounter the Man who Defined American Independence
Imagine being invited to Monticello, to spend an hour — or perhaps even more — in the company of Thomas Jefferson. At 77, Mr. Jefferson is retired, but still busy establishing his University of Virginia, over-seeing its construction and developing its curriculum. At the same time he’s looking back on his life, reflecting on his “services” to our country, the things he’s been able to accomplish as well as things left undone. And so he’s invited you to his home, so he can explain the events of his life. An encounter with Thomas Jefferson can take many forms. But in each case the audience has an opportunity to ask “Mr. Jefferson” any questions they wish … although some he may choose not to answer. And if time allows, following any performance, the actor engages the audience in an open-ended Q&A “talk back,” answering any questions which perhaps remain unanswered.
Twilight at Monticello
A full-length, two-act play, covering a range of topics, from newspapers (and the "fake" news of his day), and the story behind the Declaration of Independence, to his several failed efforts to end slavery.
My Services to Our Country
A one-act play, focusing on the services inscribed on Mr. Jefferson’s tombstone: as author of both he Declaration of Independence and the Virginia law that established religious freedom, and as the founder of the University of Virginia.
A Dinner with Thomas Jefferson
At Monticello, dinner was served mid-afternoon; guests were invited to arrive at 3:30, and the meal itself was served at 4:00. Guests were seated “pell-mell,” without regard to position or social class, and served themselves from wheeled “silent butlers.” After a first course consisting of soup, salad, meats, and vegetables, the second course was served, featuring pies, puddings, custards, jellies, and cakes. Then the tablecloth was removed, and a final dessert course of nuts, fruit and wine was offered. (Menus and recipes are provided upon request, including a menu for visitors younger than 12 years.)
The Thomas Jefferson Experience offers extensive study guides, including the performance script, suggested reading lists, and additional materials. Beyond the performance, such programs can also include a range of interactions, from “talk-backs” to classroom discussions, and talks on particular subjects. A Study Guide including the script is available for teachers in advance.
The Author and Performer
J.D. Sutton is a familiar face to Orlando Shakes’ audiences, having appeared in productions of Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing, The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, and as the irascible “Oscar Hoffman” in The Luckiest People. He has also appeared in numerous book-in-hand readings for PlayFest, including this year’s The Grand Illusion Show.
As a writer, his solo play as Thomas Jefferson, Twilight at Monticello, was the first script chosen for a PlayLab workshop, and has since been performed off-Broadway, and at venues throughout the “Original 13”, including Philadelphia’s historic Carpenters’ Hall. His Jefferson & Jupiter, about the friendship between Jefferson and one of his slaves, was named Best Drama at 2016’s Orlando Fringe Festival. Bartram’s Travels, about 18th century botanist, explorer and artist William Bartram, has been performed throughout the southeast, and has been featured on PBS’ Florida Frontiers.
The People Speak!
Your representation of … Thomas Jefferson grabbed the attention of (those) in attendance as you so eloquently portrayed a man whom they have made their icon. (We) received many complimentary remarks in regard to your performance. ~ Thomas A. Hinton, The Heritage Foundation
…I want to thank you and add my praise to the long list of audience members and historians whom you have thrilled and entertained with your extraordinarily moving portrayal of Thomas Jefferson. …The performances made (for) an exceptional evening presented by an exceptional scholar/performer. ~ Charles W. Cook, Carpenters’ Hall, Independence National Historical Park
J.D. Sutton brings Thomas Jefferson's complex genius alive in Twilight at Monticello. You will be educated, enriched and moved by his performance and leave with a deeper appreciation for Mr. Jefferson's central role as an architect of our nation's independence. ~ Thomas G. Wilkinson, Civil Litigation Section, Pennsylvania Bar Assoc.
Firmly grounded in the documents and with a sensitivity for your subject, you deliver a performance for which Mr. Jefferson himself would likely exclaim ‘Huzza!’ ~ History Professor, Florida Southern University
…a colorful, gripping, and ultimately fascinating portrait of our third president …a surprisingly clever and uniquely entertaining first-person account of our nation’s early history and the people who shaped it. ~Paul Gallotta, City Link (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
You won’t see a better rendition on stage of the man from Monticello than this. ~Joy Wallace Dickinson, Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, FL)
… a remarkable performance. ~Jacob Schaad, Jr., Cape May Gazette (Cape May, NJ)
Sutton recreates a fascinating Thomas Jefferson, warts and all. His portrayal of our third president literally brings the man to life. Sutton’s performance …is so compelling that it gives one an irresistible urge to see him do it again. ~Ed Wismer, Cape May Star and Wave (Cape May, NJ)
…a low-keyed yet hugely entertaining evening …While the topics covered sound heavy and polemic, the sense of the evening is time well spent with a funny and lovable uncle. ~Carl F. Gauze, www.ink19.com
Surprisingly humorous and ‘human.’ Made Mr. Jefferson come alive.
I felt like I had spent an hour with the real Thomas Jefferson.
Fascinating program! Very impressive performance.
“Fantastic presentation. Please do this again.
I’ll come back again and bring others.
I loved it!
Thomas Jefferson — The Independent American
Newspapers & the Press
Decalogue of Canons
Observations of Practical Life
Books & Censorship
Smuggling Dry Up-Land Rice
Reasons for Inviting Guests
Principles of Government
Declaration of Independence Story
Marriage and Death of Wife
Revising Virginia’s Constitution
Government Established by Reason Alone
Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
Founding of the University of Virginia
Value of Eduction
Slavery & Why He Never Freed Slaves
(Q & A with Mr. Jefferson)
Vision for World Freedom
Self-Governance throughout the World
Q & A with Mr. Jefferson