Many of your neighboring, Upper Valley theater people—Perry Allison, Rebecca Bailey, Jonathan Verge and others—have been collaborating on a production of the musical 1776, scheduled to open at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction VT on March 30. (For an earlier story about this play, one that preceded Hamilton in dramatizing American history, please click here.)
It’s not simply a play, but a project that aims to build community
conversation. Here’s the “trailer,” (above) a mini-documentary about the production made by Dartmouth
students Whom do you see—besides Taylor Hooper as
John Adams—that you know?
The casting is not always gender-specific. Rebecca Bailey is portraying one of her forebears, and says, “I was intrigued by playing Robert Livingston because I am a direct descendant of his cousin Philip Livingston, who is known as "The Signer" because, after Robert was called home from the Continental Congress, Philip took his place and actually signed the Declaration of Independence.” Bailey was also initially interested in the project as a vehicle for getting people to think about the role of compromise in the formation of the government.
There was a personal bonus for her as she gathered information about her ancestors. “Playing [Robert] has given me the impetus to learn more about the Livingstons, who owned an enormous estate worked by tenant farmers under basically feudal conditions while the Livingstons lived the good life. Robert really wavered on whether to support independence; it was mostly a question of which side was best for the family finances. And yet he was well educated, supported the arts, wrote beautifully, and practiced innovative farming techniques - not a two-dimensional character.
Full disclosure: John Hancock, whose partial signature appears above (and was the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence) is my many-times-great uncle.
Jonathan Verge, actor and drama teacher at Lebanon High School, finds his portrayal of Edward Rutledge challenging because of their differing points of view. He says, “To understand and play a character you have to be able to connect with his humanity and find empathy for his situation. That is also one of the clear messages of the piece; we will not always agree with one another, but if we can humanize and empathize with each other we have hope . . . In understanding those we disagree with, we are able to debate in respectful, well-informed discussions that might finally lead to change we can all be proud of.”
1776 will run from March 30 through April 14, 2018. (Word has it that they may be looking for a violinist.) To take a peek at the cast, for further information, and to purchase tickets, go to https://www.the1776project.org/
(Photo, top, by 90.5 WESA, courtesy of Creative Commons, of sand sculpture of Founding Fathers at the Three Rivers Regatta, https://CreativeCommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
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