- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

Mary Ann Jung looked like a museum mannequin from the 1600s and talked like a Shakespearean character as she taught a history workshop at Washington Grove Elementary School in Gaithersburg one day recently.

"Wake up, slugabeds," she told about 100 children sitting on the floor of the school auditorium.

Playing the role of Margaret Brent, the first female lawyer in the English colonies of America, she was eliciting a guess from the children on where Maryland derived its name.

Several of the children guessed Queen Mary of England.

In fact, said Mrs. Jung, Maryland is named after Queen Henrietta Maria of England. Her husband, King Charles I, liked her middle name better than her first name, therefore choosing the name Maryland for the colony around the Chesapeake Bay.

"Would you like to live in Henriettaland?" Mrs. Jung asked the children, whose head shaking indicated "no."

The historical actress recreates the costumes, speech and mannerisms of famous women in performances throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District.

For her historical workshop at Washington Grove Elementary School, Mrs. Jung wore a green dress that ran from a collared neck to her ankles. A white bonnet covered most of her blonde hair, capped off by a feathered "cavalier" hat that was fashionable in the mid-1600s.

Her sister helped her make the outfit. Other outfits, such as the one she uses to play Queen Elizabeth I of England, cost about $1,000.

The meticulous historical correctness of her outfits is one of the trademarks that has given Mrs. Jung steady bookings at schools, historical societies and theaters throughout the region. She also amasses knowledge of her characters and their era, as well as mimicking the style of their speech.

For Margaret Brent, for example, the word "washed" came out as two syllables, sounding more like "wash-ed," which was typical for old English.

In other performances, she has played Red Cross founder Clara Barton; King Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn; and War of 1812 plantation owner Rosalie Calvert.

She describes herself as being some combination of an actress, history teacher, writer and producer. She also is one of the few actresses who can make a full-time business out of theater.

The visit to Washington Grove Elementary School was a typical day for Mrs. Jung. She started with the 9:45 a.m. performance of Margaret Brent. After recreating the character, including a defeated plea to the Maryland General Assembly for women's right to vote, she told the children how to research historical characters and stage skits based on their lives.

Encyclopedias and history books that include pictures of fashions of the day are good, she said. The Internet is unreliable because it includes many unprofessional Web sites.

"You're going to need to pick out one or two moments in their lives to act out," she said. "That's acting; that's not a book report. A show means action and emotion."

She mentioned an example of a girl at another Maryland school who portrayed the underground railroad activist Harriet Tubman. The girl used a towel to make a simple dress that might have been worn by slaves in the mid-1800s.

Her skit re-enacted Tubman during the funeral for her master, while she fretted about getting sold to a less-tolerant slave owner.

As the artist-in-residence at Washington Grove Elementary School for the next two months, she is supposed to return periodically to help the children with their skits and give them grades.

Mrs. Jung did a second Margaret Brent act at 2 p.m. at the school.

When she arrives home, typically she spends time returning phone calls from clients and composing contracts on her computer. She also prepares handouts that include assignments and scriptwriting suggestions for the children she teaches.

"I have to make a schedule for each school," Mrs. Jung said.

Each night, in preparation for heading out the next morning, she checks her costume and props to ensure they are arranged for the next performance.

Originally, Mrs. Jung intended to be a history teacher. But after several successful seasons with the Maryland Renaissance Festival, she decided to combine teaching and acting. The result evolved into her own company, called History Alive, which she operates out of her Annapolis home along with her husband.

"What a way to teach," she said.

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