By Robin Brenneman
When I first selected the musical, 1776, it was for a November performance in our 2020 season timed to coincide with the Presidential election. I thought that given the hyper political nature of a Presidential election year, it might be good to remember where and how it all started. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the play, 1776 is a musical depiction of the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It takes place in Philadelphia and features our founding fathers discussing whether to declare independence from England along with the actual content of the declaration itself.
Well as we know, we were unable to do 1776 in November 2020, but I was still committed to bringing this much beloved musical to the stage whenever we could. That time is now! One thing I have come to realize is that the issues raised in this production, issues that our founding fathers grappled with, are still very relevant today. We are still discussing states rights, racial inequities, the economy, taxes and on and on.
The play certainly depicts the broader events of July 1776, but it messes with the details. This is something many playwrights wrestle with when trying to write a play based on historical events. How much can and should be be changed to make the play more dramatically appealing while not losing the essence and historical truth of the story. For example, in the musical, Thomas Jefferson is reluctant to write the Declaration because he misses his wife. So, John Adams sends for Martha who comes up to Philadelphia to make Tom happy. In fact, Martha Jefferson could not have traveled at that time because she had just suffered a miscarriage and was quite ill. This is just one example of the kind of changes the playwrights made to make the play more entertaining. I encourage audience members interested in the real scoop to read this article on Wikipedia about the play where they will find a paragraph dealing with the changes that were made in the name of “dramatic license.”
I hope you will join us for one of the performances. I promise you will be entertained by our amazing cast. I also promise that this play will remind you of where it all started. You will be taken back to the “room where it happened.” And maybe you will come away with a renewed appreciation for our country and the work our founding fathers did to create one of the greatest democracies in history.
Robin Brenneman. is the Artistic Director of the Hilliard Arts Council and the Director of this production of 1776.