President William and First Lady Nellie Taft come to life at Bethany Village

William and Sue Wills as President William and First Lady Nellie Taft.

William and Sue Wills as President William and First Lady Nellie Taft.

Actors William and Sue Wills brought President William Howard Taft and First Lady Nellie Taft to life at Bethany Village before residents and invited guests on June 20 and 21.

“Theodore Roosevelt, my good friend and mentor …” President Taft’s character begins one recollection and his wife sharply finishes the thought: “… who stabbed you in the back!”

The Wills have traveled the country for 17 years with their show “Presidents and Their First Ladies, Dramatically Speaking.” They have researched, written and performed programs on 33 U.S. Presidents and their First Ladies. Together they have appeared together on stage over 8,500 times.

They shed light on the relationships, accomplishments and challenges of the Presidents and First Ladies.

In Taft’s case, their drama followed the rise of the Cincinnati lawyer to became the only person to become President of the United States and then Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Taft as Governor-General of the American civil government in the Philippines, and then as Secretary of War. Roosevelt said, “If only there were three of you; I could appoint one of you to the Court, one to the War Department and one to the Philippines.”

President William and First Lady Nellie Taft portrayed

The First Lady whom the Washington Post called “the best-fitted woman” for her role up to that time.

In Taft’s case, their drama followed the rise of the Cincinnati lawyer to became the only person to become President of the United States and then Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Taft as Governor-General of the American civil government in the Philippines, and then as Secretary of War. Roosevelt said, “If only there were three of you; I could appoint one of you to the Court, one to the War Department and one to the Philippines.”The drama depicts Mrs. Taft as encouraging her husband Will’s political career with her eye on the presidency, despite his oft-stated preference for the judiciary.

Living abroad widened her interest in world politics and inspired her lasting legacy in Washington after her husband became president: the cherry trees for which Washington, D.C. is famous today. Mrs. Taft arranged for the planting of the 3,000 Japanese cherry trees that grace the Washington Tidal Basin; with the wife of the Japanese ambassador, she personally planted the first two saplings in ceremonies in 1912.

The Wills performed at Bethany last summer as President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.

They plan a “historical marathon from Tuesday, Oct. 29 – Saturday, Nov. 2, when they will present 33 stories (68 characters) of our American Presidents and their wives in Ocean City, MD. The profits will all go to nonprofit groups geared to helping wounded soldiers and their families. See http://www.presidentsproject.org.

To find how you can enjoy the many enriching programs of Bethany Village, a retirement community in Centerville, Ohio, contact the Bethany Village marketing department at 937-436-6850 or bethany@graceworks.org.