Ronald Duquette is a native of New England, growing up in Massachusetts, college educated in Vermont (Middlebury College). He spent 20 years in the Army as an intelligence officer and analyst. Retired in 1994, he started a recording company (RonArt associates Recordings), and spent time singing and directing choirs in the area. In 2008, he started portraying the Marquis de La Fayette, again in 2009 and 2010. Now, as part of The League of Most Interesting Gentlemen ( https://leagueofmostinterestinggentlemen.com/ ), he portrays Albert Gallatin, a politician, diplomat, and linguist who lived from 1761 to 1849.
1. How and when did you get hooked on history?
My father had always had an interest in history, was an avid reader, and I had books around me all the time, especially books of history. Even works of historical fiction were not "off-limits," because my father (and I) had very vivid "historical imaginations," finding ourselves carried along with the stories. We both had a passionate of epic movies - "Ben-Hur," "The Ten Commandments," "Lawrence of Arabia," and these just whetted my appetite for diving more and more into history.
2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
I think the realization that one is living in the midst of history was the clarifying moment for me. In addition, reading French literature of a previous period (the time of Louis XIV, the early 19th century Romantics) also gave me a taste for time and circumstance.
3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?
I think it should be quite clear that, having portrayed Harry Truman in 1987, de La Fayette from 2008-2010, and since 2011 Albert Gallatin, these are all aspects of a part of my life that has become increasingly professionally directed.
4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
Ignorance is death. So much of our present travails are the consequence of people not bothering to know and to understand what has happened, and when confronted by the realities of that, they can't handle it. We cannot, as a society, succeed by deliberately ignoring reality - and a clear understanding of history leads us to a clear understanding not only of what has been, but where that past may be leading us.
5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
What period ISN'T my favorite? I read broadly - ancient Greece and Rome and Israel; the medieval developments of nations, especially France (the home of my ancestors) and England (my "second home" in so many ways). The early American Republic from 1770-1850. The Civil War. World War II.
6. How did you become a professional Albert Gallatin interpreter?
In 1984, shortly after having been posted to Grenada for our invasion of that island, I was sent as part of a six-person team to the Defense Intelligence Agency for a 6-week temporary duty to provide an ex post facto justification for our invasion of Grenada. While there, my boss, who was a part of that team, asked if I wished to go have dinner at Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria Old Town. While there, there was a gentleman dressed in period dress, with a guitar, a pleasant voice, singing songs of the period, and giving the "news of the day" as of 200 years ago that day. I was enthralled; it was the perfect nexus of theater (which I love) and history (which I love). I got his contact info, bought a cassette tape of his singing; when I returned home, I promptly forgot about him. Go forward 26 years to 2010, and he was portraying James Madison at Gadsby's Tavern, while I had been invited to portray the Marquis at the Tavern Museum - and I asked him if he'd been the fellow 26 years before, and indeed, he was. The next year (2011) he asked if I would be interested in portraying Gallatin for a symposium hosted by the Swiss Consulate General and the International Bundesbrief Society in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center. What did I know of Gallatin? Finances, Jefferson Administration....???? So, because I can do the French accent (he was from Geneva), I said yes, thinking I would do this perhaps one or two times at the most. And here I am, 10 years later, having portrayed him in various circumstances from Bozeman, MT to New York City to the State Department to Friendship Hill (his home in southwest PA) to Col. Monroe's Ashlawn-Highland - easily over 100 times in that period.