“Dr Jaggar” with Halema’uma’u Crater in the background.
Dick Hershberger is taking over the role of Dr Thomas Jaggar
“Dr. Jaggar” in the Whitney Vault
“Dr. Jaggar” in the Whitney Vault
Dick Hershberger as Dr. Jaggar stands next to the measuring benchmark outside the Whitney Vault
For seven years Kilauea Drama & Entertainment Network (KDEN) has presented a Living History program in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HVNP). “A Walk into the Past” features a living history presenter, dressed in period costume, brings back to life Dr. T. A. Jaggar, founder of Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory and a prominent figure in the history of Volcanology, the study of volcanoes.
Thomas Jaggar moved to Hawaii from his offices at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was the head of the Geology Department, in order to study firsthand the activity of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, thereby gaining valuable knowledge about the inner workings of earth systems. He founded the first geologic observatory dedicated to saving lives. He co-founded the Park itself. It was Jaggar’s vision that inspired the idea of predicting geologic hazards worldwide.
The program itself takes place in the Whitney Vault, a 16’ x 12’ underground laboratory that still has original seismograph equipment, and is located under a mound in front of the Volcano House. The time is April 1912 when travel was by ship, train horse and carriage. There were only four airplanes in America. Teddy Roosevelt was running for President and the Red Sox won the World Series.
“A Walk into the Past” was conceived by local actor –director-playwright, Peter Charlot, who portrayed Jaggar for the first seven years. Alongside Charlot, local storyteller, Sandra MacLees played his assistant (and eventually Jaggar’s wife) Isabel Maydwell. That program came to a conclusion in May of 2012, due in part to the construction at the Volcano House.
Starting in November, the program is back. There have been changes made to the Whitney Vault, including installing the original Bosch-Omori seismograph, and changes made to the program as well. Ka’u actor-director Dick Hershberger is now portraying Dr. Jaggar.
Hershberger’s extensive experience on the many theatrical stages of the Big Island has finally brought him to a new venue in HVNP. “I love performing in front of a live audience”, he said. “Film and video are fun performance arenas, as well, but there is no thrill for me greater than making a presentation to a living and breathing audience. It becomes a shared experience between us as the actor and viewer become a single entity.” He has been seen on the stages of The Aloha Theatre in Kona, The Parker School Theater and Kahilu Theatres in Waimea, The Palace and University of Hawai’I Hilo Theatres in Hilo and The Kilauea Theater in Volcano with KDEN. “There used to be romantic leads for me, but those days are long past. I see a lot of father roles coming my way. Before too long, I suppose I’ll be the tottering old grandfatherly type, if there are roles like that available. Maybe I’ll just have to start writing roles for myself.”
“When first approached to undertake the Living History Presentation of Thomas A. Jaggar at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, I was initially intimidated by the enormity of the task,” revealed Hershberger. “Playing Jaggar in front of a live audience three times a day is daunting enough without the additional work of playing this real life character without a script. The research involved was, well, let’s put it this way, when I prepare for a scripted theatrical role like Oliver Warbucks or Tevye, my note book for the project will run about sixty or seventy pages. The Jaggar notebook is over one hundred and fifty pages and growing every day.”
“The more that I explored Dr. Jaggar’s life, the closer I have become one with him,” said Hershberger. “He was originally from Pennsylvania. Me too. His father was a clergyman. Mine, also. His family traveled extensively in Europe. Another similarity, he resided in Naples, Italy for a time. It’s about this point where the similarities in our lives began to creep me out a bit.”
Performances of “A Walk into the Past” will be on Tuesday, December 18 at 10 a.m., 12 noon and 2 p.m. Meet at the Kilauea Visitor Center. Starting Tuesday, January 8, 2013, performances will be every other Tuesday at the times listed above. There is no charge for the performance, but park entrance fees do apply.