GLEN ELLYN – Christmases of old will come to life at the Glen Ellyn Historical Society on Dec. 15 with a program on the legend of St. Nicholas.
Donning a white beard and long red robes to become Father Christmas himself, actor Terry Lynch will share the meanings of various holiday symbols and traditions that people today often take for granted.
Lynch started the company Histories for Kids with his wife, Laura, in 2002 and puts on shows for schools, libraries, historical societies, retirement communities, corporate events and museums all over the United States, in which he portrays historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Burnham, George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt.
He has long had an interest in history and worked for years as an actor doing voice-overs and commercials. He decided to start a company for educational performances after playing Franklin at a trade show at McCormick Place in Chicago, at which someone suggested he put an actual show together.
"I was willing to take a chance with my wife," Lynch said.
While Lynch handles the acting side, his wife, an experienced teacher, creates study guides and lesson plans for the presentations they give at schools.
Around Christmas, Lynch tends to garner a lot of interest in his program "The Legend of St. Nicholas." He also receives many requests to portray Charles Dickens.
Sometimes, museums or other clients will let him know what historical figures they'll be focusing on in the future to see if he would put together shows on those specific people.
Once the Lynches decide on a character, the first thing they do is research that person. After creating so many shows, they have previous research on file, making it easy to access information.
"We literally got it down to a little bit of a science," said Lynch, who performs in 100 to 125 shows each year.
Besides his one-man portrayals of historical figures, Lynch also has given lectures on leadership at colleges, pulling from the research he has done on important leaders in United States history.
The St. Nicholas show has been part of Lynch's repertoire for about 10 years. This is the first time he'll be doing the performance for the Glen Ellyn Historical Society, although he did portray Daniel Burnham earlier this year for a program the Historical Society held about Burnham's plan for Chicago.
What Lynch loves about the St. Nicholas program is that it puts audience members in the Christmas spirit.
The show is appropriate for families and doesn't reveal any "big secrets" about everyone's favorite jolly gift-giver.
During the performance, he talks about the history of the fourth century bishop who became St. Nicholas and explains the ways communities in Europe and the United States have celebrated Christmas throughout the years.
"It seems like a perfect fit for the Historical Society," said Suzanne Carty, president of the Glen Ellyn Historical Society's Board of Directors.
Lynch said he believes it adds something special to people's enjoyment of Christmas.
"It brings more to the holiday," he said.
About Terry Lynch
Residence: Orland Park Family: Wife, Laura; children, Dennis and Ellen Education: Studied theater at Northern Illinois University, trained at Second City and IO Theater Activities: Gardening
If you go
What: The Legend of St. Nicholas and Holiday Candlelight Tour of Stacy's Tavern Museum When: 2 p.m. Dec. 15 Where: Glen Ellyn History Center, 800 N. Main St. Cost: $7 adult Historical Society members, $10 adult non-members, $5 youth (ages 3 to 17)