Brian “Fox” Ellis gave the audience a rare look at Herbert Hoover in front of 455 people Saturday night as the last performer for the 2017 High Plains Chautauqua.
The foundation for his performance came from Hoover’s speech on Armistice Day, 1929. But Hoover isn’t remembered as a great public speaker, Ellis said, so he showed the audience Hoover’s humorous and friendly side preparing for the Armistice Day address, even using some of Hoover’s own jokes.
Ellis, of Bishop Hill, Ill., has been a professional historical actor for 37 years. He got his start as a traditional storyteller, but the commissions started rolling in for his portrayal of historical characters. He specializes in historical scientists, which is part of why he enjoyed playing Hoover.
Hoover’s work as an engineer, mineralogist and geologist gave him the skills he needed to head the American Relief Administration after World War I. His work feeding the people of Central and Eastern Europe is credited with saving more than 26 million lives.
Ellis shares more about his own work, as well as Hoover’s:
Question — How do you study, especially to capture the historical figure’s character and personality?
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Answer — Hoover’s been my easiest because he’s a great speechwriter. As a president, all of his speeches are available online. And he was at the dawn of television — before he was president, he was the secretary of commerce. Before we had an FCC, it was the commerce department that regulated radio and television, and so his voice was literally the first voice to be broadcast across the nation. And his face was one of the first faces to be broadcast on television. So I…
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