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Ride Into History

Amelia Earhart 

Ann Birney brought Amelia Earhart to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in its first-ever dramatic performance.

Amelia Earhart runs into the room, apologizes for being late, and explains the latest problem with her attempt to fly around the world at the equator. She also tells dramatic stories about her childhood, including a harrowing sled "flight" between the legs of a horse, and about becoming the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air.


Calamity Jane 

Joyce Thierer as Calamity Jane has fascinated audiences from chautauqua attendees to four year olds since 1990. 

Calamity Jane comes roaring in to tell how she met Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill, became the army's only woman scout, and earned her nickname. But give her time and she'll also talk about having to pack up and leave her home in Missouri, about being an immigrant, about her parents' death, and about giving up her daughter for adoption.

Amelia Earhart and Calamity Jane: One Frontier, Differently, combines the romance of horses, flight, and the West in a two-act piece for general audiences.

What if the young Amelia Earhart had met Calamity Jane?

Amelia and Calamity also travel separately. They are suitable for conference banquet entertainment (references include the National Space Grant Consortium Directors, Kansas School Nurses, and Mountain Plains Museums Association). But they also play very well in schools, from kindergarten on up.


Kansas City fourth graders wrote: “You were great & I was so mad when it was over. Nothing could have been better than that” 

“It was so exciting! Just from the way you spoke of it, I could imagine I was high in the clouds flying in an airplane! It must be neat to act as all different historical women.”

"When my 23 Fifth Graders sat so still and listened I was amazed. The presentation was excellent.”
- A teacher in a small community was impressed.


Other programs include:

Grower, A Woman of the Earth Lodge People - Joyce as Grower, "Excellent" has been repeatedly applied to Joyce's performance as Grower, who speaks from 1804. Grower represents the many peoples who preceded Lewis and Clark in the Louisiana Purchase, including her American father and French grandfather. Teaching stories and hands-on exploration of farming tools, seeds, skins, trade goods, and other material culture make this a favorite for schools and museums. She spoke to hundreds during the July 2004 Lewis and Clark event at Atchison, Kansas.

Georgiana Jackson - Cattle Tales - Joyce as Georgiana Jackson. A Texas cattle drover Georgiana Jackson took over the drive when her father became ill and her brother was in the war. But when she returned home her family thought that she should give up her outdoor life and become a lady. Instead she bought pastureland up north. Now the bank is threatening her hold on the land.

Whose Land?/Our Land/My Land - Grower and Georgiana Jackson can be combined with Mary Fix. Joyce as Mary Fix tells a story of settling in Kansas Territory to make up the three-act Whose Land?/Our Land/My Land, which explores issues of ownership and stewardship. Grower cannot understand how the people's land can be owned, much less sold ("Can you sell the air?"); Mary and her husband celebrate their new farm; and Georgiana finds on her ranch a link back to Grower.

Julia Archibald Holmes - Ann as Julia in her scandalous bloomers! Julia Archibald Holmes traveled the Santa Fe Trail in 1858, becoming in the process the first woman to climb to the top of Pike's Peak. She did her hiking in a (scandalous!) bloomer outfit.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected President, Julia and her husband left Santa Fe, dropped their two-year-old off with her parents in Lawrence, and went to DC to offer their services, returning with Henry's appointment as Secretary of the Territory of New Mexico. Julia's letters, and those of men who wrote complaining that Captain Holmes was not controlling his young wife are among Ann's sources for this fascinating woman who knew Susan B. Anthony and John Brown, taught her brother to speak Spanish, was divorced in 1870, had four children, wrote poetry, and worked for the Bureau of Education in Washington, DC at the time the typewriter was coming into being.

Fighting Beside My Brother - At least 600 women fought in the Civil War disguised as men. Fighting Beside My Brother tells their story in a composite character, a veteran looking back on her motives for going to war. Beginning with Bleeding Kansas, Jo describes the dilemmas of a female Civil War soldier disguised as a man. Ideal for fourth grade through adult; not suitable for very young people.

Rachel Carson’s Unquiet Autumn - Rachel Carson is a key figure in the history of the environmental movement because of the wake-up call she issued in her 1963 book Silent Spring. The response from giant chemical companies was a frantic public relations campaign hurled at the painstaking marine biologist. 
Ann Birney of Ride into History portrays the very private Rachel Carson who knew she had little time remaining to her to employ science to save the natural world from human arrogance—and what will happen to her young son after her death? 

Night at Your Museum! Dr. Joyce Thierer

Have you seen Night at the Museum? The displays come alive at night. The public doesn't actually witness the magic, but there are signs that it's happening. Word gets out, and suddenly a place that was going under is inundated by the public. Movie-goers feel good about a story in which a museum has found new energy, and wish that the story could be true -- that history could come alive -- while knowing, nevertheless, that it cannot: exhibits are static.

But they really don't have to be! And that's what will make it all the more startling when we bring history alive at your museum or historic site. Community members arrive for tours, having a vague idea that this is something special, but confident in their knowledge that museum exhibits don't come alive. And then, something shifts. The magic begins!

Afterwards, they tell their friends, neighbors, and the person waiting on them at the coffee shop. And suddenly your tours are over-booked. What a great problem for a museum to have!

The Experience: A docent leads a group to a display case. Suddenly, a youngster in period clothing runs up, exclaiming, "That's my top! My grandfather made it for me for Christmas!" The artifact (whatever it is) begins "glowing" as its story is told. And this happens over and over throughout the tour: the manikin that's always stood in the corner comes to life, a child walks through the door of a room display and greets the tour group. And the adult docent "loses control" as the exhibits take over!

All materials are provided ; even costumes can be provided.

About the Presenters:

Ride into History calls what they do “sneaky history.” Others have called their performances “entertaining and intelligent” and “the most popular part of the event,” and said, “I don’t remember when I’ve had so much fun—and I’ve learned, too!” Ride has delighted audiences of all ages, in settings as varied as conferences and schools. Dr. Joyce Thierer and Ann Birney have PhD degrees and have been on humanities council rosters in three states, and Joyce is a history professor at Emporia State University.

Ride is serious history...but not TOO serious! As entertainment, Ride into History has been on the Kansas Arts Commisions Touring Program and Mid-American Arts Alliance Heartland Arts rosters.

Ann Birney has taken Amelia Earhart to elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges; to public schools, Catholic schools, a Jewish school, Episcopal schools, and a school for kids with dyslexia; to schools from New York City to Saipan.


"You live up to all your glowing recommendations."


Other information:

Funding assistance is generally available from humanities and arts councils.

Most performances are ideal for groups of up to 400 people--larger in a theater or auditorium with in-house lighting and sound.

The troupe provides sound system, publicity copy, and curriculum guides.

Rates (subject to change)

Travel expenses additional, including $25/hour travel time out of state

For more information please see the Ride into History website:

Contact information:
Ride into History
2886 N. Hwy 99
Admire, KS 66830
(620) 528-3580


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