My work as a Performing Artist of Living History started with local history. I love researching and immersing myself in the "pages of history" contained within a reference room of a library or at a museum's archives, looking at old journals, correspondence and maps which provide me with "a window to travel back in time" to get to know an individual and hear their words or to see where things were and how much has changed, or stayed the same. I am a firm believer that there is still history out there, waiting to be re-discovered.
Roles have ranged from playing John Merrick in The Elephant Man, Philip Lombard in And Then There Were None, to Virgil in Dante's Inferno.
Joseph Smith as The Recordkeeper in Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol
Having a passion for history, particularly the local history of where I was living, led me to combine my love of acting with my love of history.
Through research, writing and performance, my portrayals bring people from history forward in time in an educational, engaging and entertaining way.
I collaborate and partner with museums, historical societies, lighthouses and cultural organizations with theatrical living history performances that serve and support their missions.
Joseph Smith as Frederick Law Olmsted for Friends of Anderson Park's Olmsted Birthday Celebration
(Photo credit: Kate Albright)
My mission is to create excitement and curiosity about history by giving voice to stories that celebrate the human spirit.
I perform stories in a way that touch people emotionally -- that uplifts and sparks curiosity about where they live, perpetuating a heightened awareness of their natural surroundings and their community's history.
Joseph Smith as Augustin Fresnel for the 25th Annual Gala for the American Lighthouse Foundation
(Photo credit: Dominic Trapani)
Donna Dimino has been involved in theatre for over 30 years. Some of her acting credits include “Crimes of the Heart”, “The Last Night of Ballyhoo”, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, “A Winter’s Tale”, “The Laramie Project”, and “Prince Hal”, which won an OOBR Award for Excellence in Theatre.
From 2002-2003, Ms. Dimino created and portrayed Victorian actress and suffragette Edith Kingdon Gould at Georgian Court University. This was Ms. Dimino’s first taste of combining Theatre & History, which sparked an interest in her to give voice to historic figures that could teach and inspire our world today.
In 2006, Donna directed Island Anthologies: A Living Tour of an Abandoned Cemetery, a full length play which she co-wrote with Joseph Smith that received a COAHSI JuneFest Exhibiting Arts Award.
In 2010 Donna directed and script edited Joseph Smith in Staten Island’s History Now: William T. Davis, which received a 2010 DCA Premier Grant from COAHSI and since then has continued to direct and script edit Joseph in his Living History performances of An Evening with Charles Rohlfs, Philip Freneau: A Poet’s View, Seeing Staten Island’s Lights Through A New Lens: Augustin Fresnel, which Mr. Smith was the recipient of a 2016 DCA Art Fund Grant and most recently, Frederick Law Olmsted on Staten Island: His Journey Begins, a collaboration with Friends of Olmsted-Beil House, which received a 2021 DCA Premier Grant, and A Ramble with Frederick Law Olmsted, performed in collaboration with the Friends of Anderson Park in 2022.
She directed the sequel, Frederick Law Olmsted on Staten Island: His Journey Continues, in 2022.
Other directing credits include a full length Dance Theatre Piece called “Passages: A Celebration of Women”, which received a grant from The Greater NY Arts Development Fund Regrant Program and a Snug Harbor Cultural Arts Grant, and went on to direct several theatrical pieces including: “The Visitors from London” from California Suite at Staten Island Shakespearean Theatre & “Arsenic and Old Lace” at TimeSpace Theatre Company.
Scene from Frederick Law Olmsted on Staten Island: His Journey Begins, researched, written and performed by Joseph Smith for Friends of Olmsted-Beil House.
My living history programs of Augustin Fresnel, Frederick Law Olmsted, Young Abe Lincoln and Philip Freneau are available for museums, historical societies, lighthouses, schools and public gardens. Do you have someone from history that you would like to see performed for your audience and organization? Let's see what's possible!
I look forward to hearing from you.
New Jersey, United States