Camelot Revisited

  Jackie Kennedy to speak in Brevard

Leslie Goddard dons a pink suit and pillbox hat to best embody an American icon.

Leslie Goddard makes her living bringing the deceased to life, combining her advanced degrees in American Studies, U.S. history, and theater to portray influential women from the past. Her one-woman shows in authentic dress of the period are interactive; figures such as Louisa May Alcott, Queen Elizabeth II, and Amelia Earhart chat with the audience in an intimate setting. As part of the traveling Chautauqua “History Comes Alive” Festival, Goddard will be channeling one of history’s most iconic women, Jackie Kennedy, in a 30-minute performance, followed by a Q&A.

How did you create a career portraying historic women?

I had no idea this career existed. I worked in history museums for 15 years or so and when someone heard I had a theater background, they asked me to do a portrayal of a local [Chicago] woman. It was so fun and interesting. I did someone else, and then someone else. Over the course of time, it became a full-time job portraying lots of women.

Who was the first internationally known woman you portrayed?

A group wanted me to do Jackie Kennedy, which was surprising, as I didn’t look like her. But this woman said, “If you have a pill-box hat, a bouffant hairdo, and white gloves, people will know who you are.” She was right.

What era of Jackie do you present?

The set is Jackie Kennedy’s living room in Georgetown in 1964, with just a table and chair. She comes in, sits down, and launches into her story of what it was like to be President Kennedy’s wife, and life in the White House.

You wear the pink suit?

That suit is probably one of the most famous articles of clothing in American history. It’s a tricky thing and I hesitated, but it is such a powerful way to help people go back in time. One woman told me that the first sight of it brought tears to her eyes. 

What makes Jackie right for this year’s “It’s Revolutionary” theme?

So many things! She was one of the first First Ladies to have a cause during her time in the White House — the renovation of the White House was a huge project. After the assassination, which was personally devastating, she led the nation through its deep grief, crafting the funeral so it became something also inspirational. She shaped how the Kennedy years were remembered.

What is the audience most curious about in the Q&A?

I can only answer questions as Jackie up to 1964, so the question I am asked most often I answer as Leslie Goddard: “Why in the world did she marry Aristotle Onassis?” I think she wanted security, protection for her kids, and to stop being the goddess on the pedestal. 

The Greenville Chautauqua Festival brings Leslie Goddard as Jackie Kennedy to the Transylvania County Library (212 South Gaston St., Brevard) on Saturday, June 22, 7-8:15pm. Free. For more information, call 828-884-3151, ext. 1805.

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