The locally produced public television program “Inventing America: Conversations with the Founders,” which highlights the origins of the Declaration of Independence, will premiere at Hope College’s Knickerbocker Theatre in downtown Holland on Thursday, July 2, at 8 p.m. just two days before the nation celebrates the meaning of the document.

The public is invited.  Admission is free, although tickets are required.

The program, which is about 70 minutes long, runs as an interview with three of the Declaration’s signers—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin—and one delegate to the Second Continental Congress, John Dickinson, who refused to sign, revealing the conflict behind the historic event. While imagined and presented as a retrospective, the conversation is based on fact, using the Founders’ actual words.  The moderator is Dr. Marc Baer, professor of history at Hope.

Created by Holland resident Milton Nieuwsma, a two-time Emmy Award winner, the program was developed as a joint project of Hope College and WGVU Public Media.  A live panel discussion with members of the production team will follow the screening.  Participants will include Nieuwsma; Baer; John K.V. Tammi, director and professor emeritus of theatre at Hope; and Phil Lane, the program’s cinematographer and production manager at WGVU.  The panel will be moderated by Michael Walenta, general manager of WGVU.

Jefferson, Adams and Franklin were portrayed by Bill Barker, Sam Goodyear and John Hamant respectively, all of whom are actors with Colonial Williamsburg, and Dickinson was portrayed by actor Rodney TeSlaa of the Greater Grand Rapids area.  Executive producer was Darell Schregardus of Davis, California.  Both Nieuwsma and Schregardus are 1963 Hope graduates.

“Inventing America: Conversations with the Founders” was filmed as a pilot for a potential limited-run PBS series focused on the story of the American republic, with the format modeled after Steve Allen’s classic “Meeting of Minds” series, which aired on PBS from 1977 to 1981.  The episode will air locally on WGVU on Sunday, July 5, at 3 p.m., and will be released nationally through the National Educational Telecommunications Association.

Free tickets for the July 2 showing at the Knickerbocker Theatre may be obtained in advance at the ticket office in the college’s Events and Conferences Office, with any remaining tickets available at the door.  Located downtown in theAnderson-WerkmanFinancialCenterat100 E. Eighth St., the office is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be called at 616.395.7890.

The Knickerbocker Theatre is located at 86 E. Eighth St., between College and Columbia avenues.