Jenny Goran and friends

When actress Jennifer Goran showed me a picture of her mother, I was immediately struck by the uncanny resemblance to Ellen Craft, heroine of my new novel, The Vanishing Woman. This amazing similarity was confirmation that Jenny is the right person to play the part of Ellen Craft in a one-person interpretation of the historical figure–not that I even needed confirmation.

Jenny will be the featured actress in our “Meet the Vanishing Woman” program, with the first presentation lined up for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park just outside of Indianapolis. For those who aren’t familiar with The Vanishing Woman, the novel is based on the true story of Ellen Craft, a slave who looked white because her father was the master and her mother was a slave of mixed-race heritage. So Ellen escaped by posing as a white man, while her husband William pretended to be her slave.

Jenny brings over 30 years of experience to the part. Here is just a sampling of her experience:

  • A theater graduate from the University of Illinois
  • A free-lance artist who worked in schools throughout central Illinois, using drama to teach history, social studies, and literature
  • Founder and director of the prevention theatre program RiskTakers, which won the National Recreation and Park Association’s Arts and Humanities Award
  • Director of Aurand Harris’s The Orphan Train, which until recently was the best-selling show in the history of the theatre program at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois
  • Winner of the Outstanding Contribution Award in Children’s Theatre from the Illinois Theatre Association
  • Junior high and high school drama teacher at Judah Christian School in Champaign
  • A voiceover artist, whose voice had been heard for many years by visitors to the University of Illinois Assembly Hall

Jenny even conducted drama workshops in Ukraine and Jordan. But I first got to know her when we attended the same church and (believe it or not) we did ventriloquism routines for children in the congregation. Now, as we embark on this new venture, there will be only one dummy in the act. That would be me.

By Doug Peterson

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The real Ellen Craft

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