Ken Johnston

Interpretive Historian and Performer

Mr. Johnston graduated from LaGrange College, with a major in Speech Communications & Theatre and a minor in English. While attending LaGrange College he received the 1984 Ingrid Bergman Scholarship (for which he wrote an essay promulgating history based environmental theatre), the 1985 Irene Arnett Drama Award and was inducted into the LaGrange College Psychology Honor Society. Mr. Johnston also has Certification in Historical Interpretation by the nationally acclaimed training program at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Mr. Johnston first began doing third person historic interpretation at the 1840’s Smith Log Cabin, Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia. He worked as a Museum Educator and Living History Specialist for the Atlanta History Center where, in addition to doing third person interpretive work at the mid-1800’s Tullie Smith Farm, he concentrated on developing history based theatre pieces, centering on the lives of yeoman farmers and the enslaved. He also served as Curator of Living History and Programs for the Rural Florida Living History Museum in Tampa, developing and overseeing both third and first person interpretation.

In the inaugural year of Colonial Williamsburg’s Revolutionary City program he performed portraying General Benedict Arnold and Royal Attorney General John Randolph. At Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens he was Managing Director of First Person Interpretation and Programming with duties of researching, writing, directing and performing for the Engaging Encounters and Washington’s World programs, both of which he created and which served over 250,000 visitors per year. Mr. Johnston has done living history work in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and the United Kingdom/England.
He was the Executive Director and Director of Programs and Education at the National Civil War Naval Museum from 2010 through 2014, telling the stories of sailors, soldiers, slaves and civilians in relation to the Navies of the Civil War. He also served for 5+ years as the Director of Education at the Northeast Georgia History Center, interpreting several centuries of life in North Georgia using museum theatre, music/dance performance, digital outreach, and living history programming – his public programming and creation of the digital outreach studio increased attendance by 20% and revenue by 30%.

Mr. Johnston currently does freelance work in which he interprets, among others, the historic characters of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de la Fayette, George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. At the Smithsonian, Mr. Johnston has done work with the National Archives, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History. A Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists member, he has appeared playing George Washington in The Real George Washington on the National Geographic Channel, Admiral Lord Howe and Scottish Indentured Servant James Selkrig in, respectively, Colonial Williamsburg’s Emmy winning productions Founders or Traitors? and Freedom Bound which aired on PBS, and Whiskey Distiller Peter Bingle for the Food Network and the History Channel, The Secret of Spirits and Modern Marvels – Whiskey/Modern Marvels Essentials – Distilleries respectively. He has also performed in Shakespearean theatre, children’s theatre, improv Comedy, full contact jousting, TV commercials on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, low budget sci-fi/horror movies and toured with a rock band in North America and Europe.