BEING BEN FRANKLIN28 Jun 2016, Posted by The Franklin You Thought You Knew in
BEING BEN FRANKLIN
Having been Ben for nearly fifteen years, and an actor for forty years, I am constantly reminded of what happens when one gets inside a character. It is my life’s work these days to become Dr. Franklin as much as possible, in order to portray him “from the inside out”, as I express it. When you really get inside a person, of course, you find things that are good, and you find the not-so-good things that anyone would find inside of any one of us. Too many biographical works have been written about well-known people over the years that come close to nominating them for sainthood. I understand that Franklin has aspects of his character that are less than attractive. And people ask and comment about some of those flaws from time to time. I attempt to acknowledge “my” shortcomings, as Dr. Franklin. I also have to sometimes defend “myself” against false charges, as any person would. I am accused of “cheating on my wife” while in Paris, for example. This did not happen, for a couple of reasons. First, Deborah had died two years before Franklin went to France, so he was a widower. Second, Franklin was seventy-one years old when he arrived in France, and nearly eighty when he left, so really? The worst that one can say about his conduct with the women in France is that he was a charming old flirt. If I ever become so charming, I hope the same can be said about me.
The most serious flaws that I find, however, are those relating to Franklin as a husband and father. As a father, I cannot envision cutting myself off from my son or daughter the way that Franklin did with William. William did indeed remain loyal to the Crown during the war of Independence, but estrangement was a harsh penalty. He is your son, Franklin. Disagree and love. Franklin’s apparent coldness toward his daughter on many occasions are problematic as well. Then there is Deborah, his wife. Benjamin spent some twenty-five years away from her in their forty-four years of marriage. It is true that she would not travel, both because of fear of the ocean and feeling too “plain” to move in the circles that he would occupy. And marriage in the early eighteenth-century was not so romantic a relationship as it would become, but she did express real love for the man so many times when he was away, and his response was rather cold. It was said by Franklin’s contemporaries that he was cold and aloof with strangers, but a find companion with his friends. It is strange to find family so often in the category with strangers.
Despite the Franklin flaws, I do love the man, and hope to “be” him for many more years.