Jefferson in Virginia

Twilight at Monticello: An Evening with Thomas Jefferson

As for Twilight at Monticello, I suspect there's a better theater piece waiting for someone who wants to take liberties with what we know about the man and make a stronger statement. The fact that so many people have been intrigued by the recent DNA testing connecting Jefferson to Hemings (and thus to African Americans) suggests we are ready to explore and perhaps embrace a Jefferson who is brilliant and visionary if not entirely perfect.


Actor Bill Hindman, who died July 8 of complications following surgery for lung cancer, played a barley-beguiled Irishman, numerous old coots, and one hell of a Scrooge in Dickens's A Christmas Carol, and that was in the past year alone. A fixture on the South Florida rialto, Hindman brought a mature presence and the kind of inventiveness to his characters that can only be refined through hard work, complex imagination, and a keen physical intelligence.

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Written and performed by J.D. Sutton. Directed by Jerry Waxman. Through August 8.
Hollywood Boulevard Theatre, 1938 Hollywood Blvd; 954-929-5400.

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Hindman, who was 76 years old, was often cast in elder statesmen roles (Clarence Darrow, Hemingway, Scrooge) because he was indeed the elder statesman of South Florida theater. But I also enjoyed him in parts that allowed him to show his characters' less dignified sides. The role that enchanted me most, because of the devilishness Hindman brought to it, was that of Simm, the lecherous, good-ol'-boy horse-trader in Sam Shepherd's Simpatico, which the actor appeared in last summer at the Florida Shakespeare Theatre (now the GableStage).

One pithy scene turned on Hindman's hilarious exploitation of his character's wiliness, particularly while he tried to hoodwink a young woman. "You'd be able to have me groveling at your feet," Simm said after the woman arrived in his office in a brand-new Kentucky Derby outfit. Then (as Hindman got down on his knees, cracking his trademark alligator grin), he asked, "Would you like to see me grovel?"

Another role I frequently saw Hindman in -- the one that he seemed to relish most -- was that of father to Miami Herald theater critic Christine Dolen and grandfather to her son Sean. Most South Floridian theatergoers, however, knew Hindman as Papa Hemingway in John DeGroot's one-man show that the actor performed at three different venues from 1987 through 1990, and for which he picked up a Carbonell Award for best actor. (He also played the basketball coach in the 1981 movie Porky's.)

He was scheduled to play Clarence Darrow in Never the Sinner: The Leopold and Loeb Story, a new John Logan play due to open at the New Theater next month. Instead, all of South Florida's stages are darker, quieter, and emptier without him.

J.D. Sutton gives a history lesson in monologue form as Thomas Jefferson

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