It’s hard to believe that former United States President and First Lady set foot in Bloomfield on Sun., April 10, and only a sparse audience attended their talk.
Okay, time to spare you the rhetoric.
I personally thank William and Sue Wills for the history lesson.
The couple had just concluded their latest “President and Their First Ladies, Dramatically Speaking” performance, taking on the roles of 33rd U.S. President Harry Truman and First Lady Bess Truman. William Wills writes the scripts and Sue edits his work and designs the clothing the couple wears. The aim is to present the personal side of each presidential couple and their lives in 60 to 75 minutes.
“We try to read four to six different books about each subject,” said William, “and we have to be very careful. The main books most of the time are the David McCullough-authored books. For the Trumans, we read some of (daughter) Margaret Truman’s for some of the private stuff.”
After reading books, William writes the script in about a week to 10 days, and hands it over to Sue, who edits quickly.
The Wills, married for 40 years, are both originally from Baltimore, Md., and reside now in Winter Park, Fla. The couple has portrayed 32 presidential couples throughout the years, and have stood side-by-side on stages large and small for about 8,000 performances. This year is their 15th and final year touring the nation as the couple enters semi-retirement.
And knowing they’ve portrayed presidents and first ladies like they have since 1995, you feel compelled to ask which White House duo they most relate with. The answer? Richard and Pat Nixon, since the Wills met the same way the Nixons did – doing a community theater play.
The most interesting couple they’ve portrayed? The Hoovers.
“When we perform, we have people say they were sorry they had such a rotten opinion of Hoover," said the Wills, via email. "Their opinion is simply based on the start of the depression, and they were not aware of the Hoovers’ lifetime of good works.”
The couple, whose DVDs of all their performances are available for purchase on their website, have just completed their latest subject: Caldwell own Grover Cleveland, the only U.S. president to serve two four-year, non-consecutive terms, and the only president ever to be married while serving.
“Grover was a very, very honest man, and anyone 49 years old who marries a 21-year-old is most interesting,” said the Wills.
The Wills are also fond of Bloomfield, the library, and its theater.
“We’ll always remember,” said William Wills, "this beautiful little theater. We love the small intimate theater and very few libraries have such facilities.”