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Friends Speaker Series

Sponsored by the Sherrin H. and Bruce A. Baky Foundation

As part of the Friends mission to provide interesting and compelling programming for the public, the annual Speaker Series is held in cooperation with the Washington Memorial Chapel. This series, which runs from September through May, gathers an array of historians, scientists, authors, archeologists, actors and performers to share with the public their multiple points of view on history, the natural world and the ongoing commemoration of Valley Forge.

Presentations are held at Washington Memorial Chapel, on Route 23 in Valley Forge, on Tuesdays at 7 pm. Free and open to the public. A reception follows each talk.

For directions to the Chapel, visit wmchapel.org.

Tuesday, May 6 – Park Theater
General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette: A French Alliance
Join us for an evening with General George Washington & the Marquis de Lafayette featuring Dean Malissa as George Washington and Ben Goldman as the Marquis de Lafayette.

Although there is no single person in America’s history who has had greater impact on the United States of America than George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette is also important to America’s history – for without the French, we would not have won the American Revolution. Lafayette was a great admirer of General George Washington, and they shared a lifelong father-son relationship. Tonight we welcome the return of General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette to Valley Forge once again.

A contemporary – and true – story is told about Washington and Lafayette, as portrayed by Dean Malissa and Ben Goldman. Several years ago the White House commissioned the American Historical Theater, of which both men are members, to create and perform On Fire for Liberty. This two-person play highlights the close relationship of the Marquis and George Washington and the friendship of France and the emerging United States. On Fire for Liberty was performed with great success in the East Room of the White House for guests that included President George W. Bush and the former French Republic President Nicolas Sarkozy. It is said that then-President Sarkozy, who prides himself on knowing who is French and who is not, laughed heartily when he discovered that Goldman was a native, not of France as Sarkozy had guessed, but of the United States.

About Dean Malissa

Dean Malissa

A life-long resident of Philadelphia, Malissa has been a performer since childhood. After graduating with a degree in Communications, he took the business world by storm, and then, in 1999, began “Act II” of his adult life – pursuing acting as a profession. As George Washington, Malissa has crisscrossed the nation, been cast in film, TV, commercial, radio, stage and voiceover productions, and even portrayed Washington in France and China. Malissa was deeply honored to be named as the official and sole George Washington historical actor at Mount Vernon.


About Ben Goldman

Ben Goldman

Born into a theatrical family, Ben Goldman was active in his high school’s theater program and continued to pursue his dramatic passion at New York University. In 2007, the American Historical Theatre tapped Ben to portray the young Lafayette, who was 19 at the Battle of Brandywine. Ben’s uncanny resemblance to the youthful nobleman, the actor’s ease with the French language and spot-on French accent – plus his quick wit and intelligence – have endeared Goldman’s “Lafayette” to hundreds of audiences throughout the country.


Tuesday, June 3
Parable and Playground:
The Historical Evolution of Valley Forge

What has been, and is, the meaning of Valley Forge? Join Park Ranger Marc Brier for a fascinating presentation and discussion on the evolution of Valley Forge as a park.

Valley Forge was Pennsylvania’s first state park. It was established by the legislature in 1893, with an area of approximately 250 acres. Although the Valley Forge Park Commission, a committee of ten prominent Philadelphia business men and officers of historical and patriotic associations, had been tasked with “preserving the land forever” in “its original condition as a military camp,” Valley Forge came to be known as something else – an arboretum with dogwood trees, a park with vast neatly clipped lawns, a place with plentiful recreational areas.

President Gerald Ford, in a memorable, well-attended ceremony at the park on July 4, 1976, signed a bill into law making Valley Forge a national park. It wasn’t until March 30, 1977, however, that the administration of Valley Forge was formally transferred to the National Park Service (NPS). The vision of the NPS for Valley Forge was that of a historic shrine. This effort, according to Ranger Brier, has met with “some degree of success.”

As a park, Valley Forge is ever changing and evolving. What is the meaning of the park today?

About the Speaker

Marc Brier

Marc Brier grew up in Western Pennsylvania where he acquired a sense of history from his French and Indian War surroundings. With a BS in Forestry from Penn State and an MA in History from West Chester University, he has worked for both the U S Forest Service and the National Park Service. Marc Brier served as a park ranger at Independence National Historical Park and now, for over 25 years, at Valley Forge National Historical Park. In his spare time, Ranger Brier reenacts the Revolutionary War with the recreated British Light Infantry Company of the 40th Regiment of Foot.