Lewis & Clark Bicentennial

Capt. William Clark
descendant visits Louisville

Re-enactors give Science Center event
a sense of the 1800s; movie to open Oct. 4

By Don Ward

LOUISVILLE (October 2003) – At first impression, Charles Clark doesn’t appear the type to spend his weekends roughing it the outdoors, hunting wild game or negotiating rapids in an open keelboat.

Charles Clark

Photo by Don Ward

Charles Clark

Rather, the self-described “paper-pusher” for the U.S. Department of Defense in St. Louis could double for a librarian or college professor. The 50-year-old man and his wife, Julia, live with a pet cat.
But during this bicentennial year of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Clark is living up to his famous last name by donning re-enactment clothes and gear to play his great-great-great grandfather, Capt. William Clark of Louisville. The sixth-generation Clark said his mother is a descendant of William Clark’s sister, Frances, “so I get the Clark genes from both sides,” he said.
Clark visited Louisville Sept. 24 to attend the sneak preview showing of the National Geographic IMAX movie, “Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West,” at the Louisville Science Center. The film, which has been shown in other cities already, opens to the public Oct. 4 at the Science Center and runs through March 19, 2004.
In it, Capt. Clark and Meriwether Lewis and their men are re-enacted as they travel west to the Pacific Ocean and back in 1803-06. Narrated by actor Jeff Bridges, the 42-minute film features sweeping panoramas of the rugged American West and stunning aerial photography, while depicting the brutal winters they faced and the life-threatening dangers of traveling through uncharted Indiana territories.

Re-enactor with boy

Photo by Don Ward

Re-enactor with boy at IMAX preview in Louisville.

Charles Clark, who was not dressed in re-enactment attire during his Sept. 24 visit, says he enjoys playing his famous ancestor and will return to the area to do so Oct. 16-19 during the Bicentennial Commemoration and National Signature Event in Clarksville, Ind. He has played the captain in previous years’ celebrations, but none as large as this.
“I’m very honored to be asked to do this. Fortunately for me, by playing a captain I don’t have to do very much, because the sergeant does all the work; it’s very much like the real Army,” Clark said.
Clark has a 58-year-old brother living in New Mexico who also has re-enacted in the past, but this event was too far for him to travel, so Charles got the job, he said. The brothers’ late father, who died in 1971, used to portray Capt. Clark at various events, as well.
“Back then, there wasn’t very much going on in the way of these re-enactment events. This has all sort of become popular in recent years,” Charles said.
For his part, Charles last year was made an honorary citizen of St. Charles, Mo., credited as the start of the expedition west, although most recruitment of the crew and preparation for the trip took place in the Louisville area. St. Charles has a 24-year festival to mark its Lewis & Clark heritage.
Charles Clark attended the first Bicentennial Signature Event, held at President Thomas Jefferson’s home of Monticello, near Charlottesville, Va. He said the weather was cold, but he was struck by Jefferson’s precision in design of the home and gardens. To add some authenticity to his portrayal of Capt. Clark at Monticello, Charles wore a Scottish-made wool topcoat to pay tribute to Capt. Clark’s lineage from Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Sept. 24 preview at the Science Center featured several re-enactors and period music, plus songs performed by the New Albany (Ind.) High School chorus. The Kentucky Bison Co. of Goshen served samples of bison meat.
Charles said he would be viewing the IMAX film for the first time. He would like to spend more time as a re-enactor on the expedition this year, but his job wouldn’t allow it. Different people will re-enact the roles during the three-year tour, with only three people staying with the group the entire time.

Admission to the IMAX Theater, 727 W. Main St., is $8.50 adults, $7.50 for children ages 2-12 and seniors 60 and older. A combination ticket, which includes admission to exhibit halls, is $11 adults, $9 for children and seniors.

For more information, call the Science Center at (502) 561-6100 or visit: www.louisvillescience.org.



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