Bigelow tells the story of America’s last and least known Founding Father. For years he has served as the costumed Monroe interpreter at Ash Lawn-Highland, the fifth president’s home, just three miles from Jefferson's Monticello and a day's horseback ride from Madison's Montpelier. Bigelow was born in Charlottesville, Virginia on land once owned by Monroe and later the grounds of The University of Virginia. In 1817, Monroe and Madison laid the cornerstone for "Mr. Jefferson's University." Bigelow is a fourth generation graduate of The University, the first being his gg grandfather, Lt. Col. Charles Marshall CSA, grandnephew of Chief Justice John Marshall, Revolutionary War comrade of James Monroe. Col. Marshall was the only Confederate officer to accompany his cousin, Gen. Robert E. Lee, to the McLean House at Appomattox for the surrender of the Army of Northern VA to Gen. U.S. Grant on April 9, 1865. Bigelow’s participation in the 150th remembrance, covered this 2015 by C-Span, was followed by remarks from Senator Tim Kaine, Governor Terry McAuliffe and Civil War Historian Bud Robertson.
A Fortune 500 communications specialist in New York City for such clients as The American Gas Association, AT&T and E.I. DuPont de Nemours, Bigelow has also worked since 1989 as a Screen Actors Guild performer. In 1994, he was elected vice president of The Veterans Hospital Radio and Television Guild, a national charity recognized by Veterans Affairs "for its effectiveness in drama therapy with hospitalized vets." Weekly, he and fellow actors encouraged patients, some suffering from PTSD, to put on their own shows, which would be recorded and sometimes piped into restricted wards of the hospital. Bigelow served as a U.S. Marine officer, 1967-70, with an assignment to Armed Forces Radio and TV in Okinawa before going to Vietnam.
For the past 15 years Bigelow has performed as “President Monroe” at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, an agency established for training rising federal employees as well as providing an orientation for USAID workers prior to foreign deployment. His dramatic work creates a platform for discussing constitutional and leadership challenges, enabling participants to draw parallels between past and present. His presentations require an intimate knowledge of domestic and world history from 1758 to Monroe's death on July 4, 1831 - five years to the day from the death of Thomas Jefferson and the father of Monroe's closest cabinet officer, the succeeding president, John Quincy Adams.
"President Monroe" responds to all participant questions in character. Programs are enriched with periodic collaboration with other seasoned costumed historical interpreters, particularly "Mr. Jefferson" and "Mr. Madison."
Bigelow teaches "James Monroe, Last Founding Father" with dramatic finale, at the University of Virginia’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and performs for The Virginia Center for Politics and the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at The University of Virginia, and for Elderhostel's "Road Scholars." His work has taken him from Charlottesville to audiences of varied requirements from Washington, D.C. to Sackets Harbor, NY, to St. Augustine, FL, to West Branch, Iowa, to Houston, Texas and west to San Francisco and L.A.
For borrowed interest in researching "Colonel Monroe," Bigelow draws on family lore and the memories of his great, great grandmother Marshall through his 105 year-old maternal great aunt, who catalogued information about the family's relationship to Thomas Jefferson's second cousin, Chief Justice John Marshall, her ancestral uncle, and James Monroe's friend for over 60 years.
Having performed at the Governor’s mansion of Virginia and with other presidential interpreters for White House employees in Colonial Williamsburg in 2003, it is Bigelow's hope to bring an even richer "President Monroe" to the White House itself during the bicentennial of the Monroe presidency, 2017-25.
Bigelow’s work has been praised by his audiences as being “informative, humorous, lively and very engaging." As one attendee enthused, “Mr. Monroe really makes history come alive.”
To engage DH Bigelow as "President Monroe," email [email protected], call (434) 989-3259 or write:
Dennis Bigelow, 8 Edgewood Court, Palmyra VA 22963-2535.
Executive Assistant Karen Wolf at (434) 882-1795, formerly of The University of Virginia Darden School of Business, handles all appointments, contracts and modern communications for "President Monroe," a blessing for all concerned.