Spend an evening with 'Dolly Madison' Sunday

Actress Cynthia Janzen with a portrait of the

Actress Cynthia Janzen with a portrait of the person she's portraying, first lady Dolley Madison. (Credit: Courtesy of the Shatemuc Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution)

It's not every day that you have the opportunity to dine with a first lady.

But you'll have just that chance on Sunday when Dolley Madison travels through time to tell us all about the War of 1812 and other highlights from her life.

Well, not the real Dolley Madison, famed wife of fourth President James Madison, but those who attend will be treated to a performance by renowned actress Cynthia Janzen, who has been a professional actor for the past 20 years and has portrayed Dolley Madison many times.

The event, "Dolley Madison: War of 1812 Commemoration," will be presented by the Shatemuc Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. It will take place Sept. 23 at 4 p.m. at Old '76 House Restaurant, 100 Main St., in Tappan. It will feature an interactive performance and dinner.

The cost is $50 for Shatemuc Sisters who RSVP and $55 if they pay at the door. For the public, the cost is $75 for those who RSVP and $80 for those who pay at the door.

Diners have a choice of three entrees: classic Yankee pot roast with Yorkshire pudding, salmon roulade with Italian marscapone and citrus herb blanc, and chicken gallatine with wild rice and spinach stuff and sauce valoute.

To RSVP, call 845-642-3343 or send an email to ugstable@aol.com. Select your choice of entree in your message.

Janzen is quite familiar with the subject and with historical portrayals, having portrayed Dolley Madison for the past five years. Her recent credits include a new play, "Kiss my Little Girls: 1861," which is scheduled to run again in Virginia (late fall) with its companion piece "1862." The plays eventually will be part of a four-play series. Her engagements as Madison have included the National Portrait Gallery, Mount Vernon and the National Archives.

In her position as third President Thomas Jefferson's hostess, the real-life Dolley Madison (1768-1849) honed her skills in diplomacy and used the influence she gained to help her husband to the presidency. Her understanding of social politics, her bold fashion sense and her faith in the brilliance of her husband and the potential of her country changed the position as first lady from being purely honorary into an honored and esteemed occupation unto itself.

During the War of 1812, she endeared herself to the nation when she was forced from the President's Mansion (first called the White House in 1810) by the invading British Army. Determined to stay until the last moment, Dolley Madison made sure to secure state papers, including a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and a portrait of George Washington. Even after the federal buildings were burned to the ground, her resolve to keep Washington as the seat of government and her commitment to eliminating partisanship and preserving faith in the Federal government never wavered.

The interactive performance discusses the influences on, and pivotal events in, Dolley Madison's life leading up to the War of 1812.

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