Meeting Report

 March 27, 2016

Cleo Kocol
My Thomas Jefferson

A capacity audience enjoyed the play, which consisted of two acts, each with two scenes. Cleo portrayed Thomas Jefferson through the eyes of three women who were important in his life.

Act 1, Scene 1 belongs to Martha, Jefferson’s only wife. Speaking as Martha, Cleo revealed a great deal about the way she, as a young widow, was courted and won by the future president, bearing him six children before her untimely death. Also hinted at in this act was the relationship between her family and the Hemings.

Act 1, Scene 2 introduces Martha’s first daughter, also Martha, but known as Patsy. This is the young Patsy, to be revisited years later in Act 2, Scene 2. As a young person, Patsy begins to face the ambiguity of her relationship with Sally Hemings, her father's slave mistress.

In Act 2, Scene 1 Cleo took on the personality of Harriet, Jefferson’s daughter by his slave Sally Hemings. Harriet evokes sympathy for her plight as an illegitimate mixed-race child of the great man, whom she always addressed as “Mr. Jefferson.” Jefferson granted Harriet her freedom, when she reached the age of twenty-one, by sending her off to pass as white in Philadelphia.

Act 2, Scene 2 is most revealing about what Jefferson left behind upon his death. Here Patsy, Jefferson’s oldest surviving daughter by Martha, tells us of the overwhelming debt that forced her to sell the estate, including her beloved Monticello and most of its slaves. Sally Hemings was neither sold off nor freed.

Although Cleo has performed it only once before, the play came off as very polished. Indeed, the audience sat in rapt silence right until the end, when everyone rose to their feet (twice!) and applauded in appreciation of a great show.

Thank you very much, Cleo Kocol, for an entertaining and informative afternoon. May we hear more from you, and soon.

Report prepared by Roger Zabkie 

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