Oct. 28 - Presidents and Their First Ladies - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Oct. 28 - Presidents and Their First Ladies

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GOOD MORNING DELMARVA - When Harry Truman left the Army after World War I, he and an Army buddy started a men's clothing  store in Kansas City.  Harry's wife , Bess, worked beside him 18 hours a day.  Sadly, after a few years, the business went bankrupt, but as Harry said, "I didn't declare bankruptcy; everybody I owed got paid although it took me nearly 12 years to do so."  William and Sue Wills, creators and performers of "Presidents and Their First Ladies, dramatically speaking" can certainly relate to that situation.

After Labor Day 1978, William and Sue Wills had a major decision to make.  Five months earlier, they had liquidated all their assets to open the Parker Playhouse Children's Theater in the old Capitol movie theater on Worcester Street.  This would be a first for the town that billed itself "The Nation's Number One Family Resort"; it seemed to be a natural fit.  But the theater was also 100 feet off the boardwalk and as many businesses come to learn that when you are on a side street in OC you might as well be in Berlin!  The Wills had lost every penny of their investment and had thousands of dollars of unpaid bills.  With three children under the age of 5, Bill and Sue had $18.36 cents left in their personal bank account.

They had three choices 1) say they had given it a good try and go back to full time jobs (Bill had been the General Manager of the Sheraton hotel) 2) become a non-profit and seek grants, 3) take jobs while trying to keep the theater open.  Fortunately for Ocean City and now for patrons in 35 states, they decided on the third choice.  That decision kept their theatre company alive in Ocean City for 20 seasons, which laid the ground work for their second creation "Presidents and Their First Ladies, dramatically speaking" and overall this hard working theatrical couple has given over 8,500 performances.

Now they face another unique challenge – bringing to life the stories of 33 Presidential couples in 5 days to be held at the OC Jamboree Theater from Tuesday, October 29 through Saturday, November 2 for the benefit of The Wounded Warrior Project.  The Wills will perform all 68 historical characters.

The 5 days will consist of a morning, afternoon, and evening session each day, during which time 2 or 3 Presidential couples' life stories will be presented.  Many shows are about an hour in length, but there are some, because of lack of information available, that run 30 minutes or so.  William Wills describes the presentations as "dramatically read dialogues" which are given in the simplest of settings - two lecterns, some chairs and props.  But adding costuming, dialects, and bringing the personalities alive with their combined 70 years in theater, these performers are able to move audiences to laughter and tears and to give great insights into these leaders form the past.  One patron opined that "Congress should declare The Wills a living national monument!.  Not only will you learn the strengths and weaknesses, successes and struggles, joys and heartbreaks of these couples, but over 250 years of American history will unfold before your eyes.

There will be an ALL EVENT ticket available for $150.00, daily tickets for $40.00 and finally individual session tickets ranging from $15-$25.00.. A non- profit organization, Presidents Project, Inc., has been created and all profits will flow to the Wounded Warrior Project.  Except for travel expenses and lodging, the Wills will receive no compensation for their almost 25 hours on stage over the 5 days.  

To purchase tickets, or to donate, visit www.presidentsproject.org or write to Presidents Project, Inc. 1853 Linden Road Winter Park, FL 32792.

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