DOASKDOTELL DRAMA, MUSICAL OR PLAY REVIEW of Revolutionary City, Jefferson & Adams, Our Common Passage, The Civil War, Shenandoah


Author:  Colonial Williamsburg

Title:  Revolutionary City

Where seen: Williamsburg, East End, Colonial Area


Performance time: 4 hrs 30 min


Recording available:

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL: Interpreting history with respect to controversial issues

Review:  On March 20, 2006, Colonial Williamsburg started a two day, 135 minute per day presentation at 2:30 PM in the afternoon each day, alternating two parts, which are “Collapse of Royal Government” 1774-1776 and “Citizens at War” 1776-1781. Each day starts with a presentation outside the Capitol building and moves onto the area near Raleigh Tavern on the East end of the old Duke of Gloucester Street in the restored area. The first half has the Governor arriving at the Capitol in a stage, where Governor Dunmore dissolves the Assembly. There follows a number of outdoor skits that tend to emphasize what were controversial issues of their day, and particularly problems that would test the loyalty of family members to each others as well as to their political causes. For example, a girl laments that her father’s loyalty to the Crown will force the entire family to move to England. The tobacco economy of Virginia is taken for granted at the time, but already there a murmurings that the tea party in Boston may have not have the clear liberty oriented motive as stated, as British soldiers claim they pay more duties for tea than the colonists. Freedom meant respect for property rights, and at the time property included slaves, or chattel. Dunmore promises “good news” to the slave that they would be freed if they rise up against their masters. What would happen to them if the Brisith lose?  The most emotional vignette is probably that of a thirty-yea old carpenter who considers joining the Revolutionary Army, but his wife begs him to stay home and support his family, as he is too old. He begs for work at the Raleigh Tavern, and is told he might get work in another month. He cries that he could work making soldiers’ coffins. This certainly plays on the modern fear that military service falls upon the poor, but that was by no means always true then.   We wind up with a double-edged view of the Revolution.

That continues into the second day, when the Declaration of Independence is read with great passion on the steps of the Capitol. But then the townspeople talk of the high prices, shortages, and sacrifices of war, and the demands of military service upon the soldiers are reiterated. In those days, every able bodied male 16-60 was required to own and maintain a weapon at his residence. The British occupy Williamsburg under Benefict Arnold, but then great hope for an idealistic future with freedom from a state church is discussed, although real religious freedom at a personal level would come to be understood only gradually.

High school students often learn history as a body of facts and events to retain, but this demonstration shows how to map history to social and political controversies in our own time.  

Jefferson & Adams: A Stage Play, by Howard Greenberg, 1989; performed 2004, DVD by Colonial Willamsburg; directed by Douglas Anderson; with Bill Barker, Sam Goodyear, Abigail Schumann. Blogger review.

Our Common Passage, by Abigail Schumann, 2002. DVD by Colonial Williamsburg. Blogger review. 

The Civil War, music by Frank Wildhorn, book and lyrics by Frank Wildhorn, Gregory Boyd, and Jack Murphy, at Ford’s Theater, Washington DC, blogger.

Shenandoah (1975), music by Gary Geld, lyrics by Pete Udell, book by Udell, Philip Rose and James Lee Barrett. A Virginia farmer’s son is taken prisoner by union soldiers. I saw this in Dallas in 1975.


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