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Portraits Come Alive at National Portrait Gallery

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Imitation may very well be the sincerest form of flattery, and this summer at the Smithsonian, eleven American personalities receive loving tributes. A tour of highlights from the National Portrait Gallery’s collections, Portraits Alive! is a series of short dramatic monologues researched, written and acted by high school students participating in a summer internship program. The performance pieces correlate to images currently on display and expand on the tiny biographical placards that typically accompany the artworks.

It was refreshing getting new perspectives on people I only knew in a certain capacity. (For example, I loved Dorothy Dandridge for her performances in films like Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess, but was previously unaware of her work with the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation to help the mentally retarded.)

But the most fun to be had is in seeing how each student was able to match his or her costume to the pictures on the wall and the mannerisms they adopt to convey these celebrities—such as Charlie Chaplin's signature shuffle or Martha Graham's distinctive dance moves.

So if you’re in town, come on down and show your support for an up and coming generation of dramatic artists (and enjoy some awesome works of art). Performances are held August 12-14 at 2:15 p.m., August 19-21 at 2:15 p.m. and August 22 at 1:00 p.m.

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About Jesse Rhodes

Jesse Rhodes is an editorial assistant for Smithsonian magazine. Before he became an editorial assistant, Jesse worked at the Library of Congress Publishing Office, where he was a contributor to the Library of Congress World War II Companion.

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