Tennessee Rep Presents 1776

1776, the award-winning classic musical by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone, opens Tennessee Repertory Theatre’s 2005-06 Americana Season, Oct. 20-Nov. 5, in the Polk Theater at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, 505 Deaderick St., Nashville. The original 1969 Broadway production won the Tony Award for Best Musical and ran for more than 1,200 performances.
Directed by Rene Copeland, producing director of Tennessee Rep, the cast of 20 includes David Alford as John Adams, Kevin Haggard as Benjamin Franklin, and Jeff Boyet as Thomas Jefferson. Gary Hoff designed the set and Trish Clark designed the costumes.
Paul Carrol Binkley serves as musical director and conductor. Songs from the score include “Sit Down, John,” “Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve,” “’Til Then,” “The Lees of Old Virginia,” “Mama, Look Sharp,” “Yours, Yours, Yours,” and “Molasses to Rum.”
Copeland promises the production will be unlike any other staging of the musical about the events surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. At the same time, she assures those who love the show the script and music are being presented with great respect.
“It will be beautifully sung and wonderfully acted as written,” Copeland said, “but we will step across the historical trappings of the musical. 1776 is timely and timeless and we think we can tell the story without powdered wigs and silk stockings.”
Using a “storytelling” approach, Tennessee Rep’s production turns its actors into 20 storytellers, playing their roles with a mix of contemporary and historical settings, costumes, and props.
“Our main idea is that 1776 an important story for any century and any time,” Copeland continued. “If we can make our audience look at our Founding Fathers less like historical icons and more like living, breathing people, then they’ll be able to appreciate better the danger, the sacrifice, the risk these folks were willing to take.
“We are embracing anachronism — mixing historical and modern elements — and think the juxtaposition of time periods will give us a fresh take on the story and make the characters more vivid than just the guys pictured on our money. They truly struggled and didn’t have any idea it would all turn out so well, so I like taking the complacency that builds up over the distance of history (“Ah, our Founding Fathers were so wise, so dignified”) and shaking it up a bit.”
The production also uses nontraditional ensemble casting.
“Instead of casting an actor for every role who looks as much like the historical character as possible, we’ve chosen to cast an ensemble of 20 fabulous actors, based on their talents more than anything else, who will play all 27 roles between them,” Copeland explained. Other Nashville-based actors in the cast include Chip Arnold, Bobby Wyckoff, Matt Carlton, Tim Fudge, Shelean Newman, Sam Whited, and Patrick Moore.
“Besides racial diversity, there will also be a couple of actresses who play a male role as well as their female roles.”
She believes the storytelling technique will encourage audience members to take a new look at a story they know well.
“I think between the quality of the performances (we have a terrific cast lined up) and the imaginative visuals that will connect the past and the present, audience members will be moved by and connected to the humanity of these usually austere historical figures. We will come away with a new appreciation for the struggle, risk, and sacrifice of these people who, on the stage, are as real as we are.”
Executive Artistic Director David Alford believes the show could not be more relevant.
“1776 reminds us these men meet to discuss a revolution. Some of them already had a price on their heads. All of them risked their lives to participate in the debate. They risked being called traitors, losing their property, inciting civil disorder and war,” Alford said. “This is not unlike what is going on all over the world right now. Democracy, independence, justice – these are not the agendas of only our Founding Fathers.”
He continued, “1776 is about a great universal idea: People risking everything to oppose an oppressive government could happen and has happened throughout time. These days, even though the battle has been won in our own country, it’s actually an on-going battle. There is a need more than ever for patriots to step up and speak their minds about what they want our government to be and respond to its citizens. And, of course, outside of our country there are peoples struggling against tyranny all over the world.”
Tennessee Repertory Theatre’s season sponsor is HCA/TriStar. American Airlines and Bank of America are co-production sponsors of 1776. Additional funding is provided by The HCA Foundation, The Memorial Foundation, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, and Tennessee Arts Commission.
“Tennessee Rep’s long-standing commitment to literacy is highlighted by our Community Partners for 1776,” said Bennett Tarleton, Audience Development Director. “They are the Nashville Public Library Foundation, which is honoring David McCullough, author of the best-selling book, 1776, this fall, and Belmont University’s Humanities Symposium, Oct. 27-31. which focuses on ‘The World of Benjamin Franklin.’”
The show contains some mild profanity.
Performance Schedule:
Thursdays, Oct. 20 and 27, Nov. 3 2005, 6:30 PM
Fridays, Oct. 21 and 28, Nov. 2, 7:30 PM
Saturday, Oct. 22 and 29, Nov. 5, 7:30 PM
Saturday Matinee, Nov. 5, 2:30 PM (Signed Performance)
Polk Theater, Tennessee Performing Arts Center
Tickets: $10-$40 (some restrictions apply). Tickets are on sale at the TPAC Box Office, 505 Deaderick St., in Downtown Nashville, at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Green Hills, and all Ticketmaster outlets. Tickets may be ordered by phone: (615) 255-ARTS (2787) or at www.ticketmaster.com
1776 Cast
David Alford* — John Adams
Kevin Haggard* — Benjamin Franklin
Jeff Boyet — Thomas Jefferson
Chip Arnold* — John Dickinson
Matt Logan* — Edward Rutledge
Todd Truly* — John Hancock
Bobby Wyckoff — Charles Thompson
Matt Carlton* — Col. Thomas McKean/Robert Livingston
Patrick Waller — Richard Henry Lee/Andrew McNair
Shelean Newman* — Abigail Adams/ Dr. Josiah Bartlett
Charlene Ava — Martha Jefferson/George Read
Todd Rowan — Stephen Hopkins/Painter
Patrick Moore — Rev. Jonathan Witherspoon/Leatherapron
Richard Browder — Ceasar Rodney/Courier
Chris Strand* — Roger Sherman
Tim Fudge* — Lewis Morris
Sam Whited* — James Wilson
Shane Vickers — Joseph Hewes
Galen Fott* — Dr. Lyman Hall
Richard Daniel — Samuel Chase
RELATED ARTICLES & LINKS:
David Alford in God’s Man in Texas Comes to Nashville

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