Don’t let the headline of this post alarm you. Although I once had a professor who said that “you’re not doing real theatre unless folks show up with guns to stop you from selling tickets,” I don’t think that’s what the folks who showed up in period ‘attire’ and accessories had in mind at the opening of Robert E. Lee and John Brown: Lighting the Fuse at Wayside Theatre.
Our production is a big part in the beginning of the multi-year celebration for the Sesquicentennial Observances of the American Civil War that start this year. John Brown’s raid lit the fuse that let to that explosion and events commemorating the raid are a big part of the kick off. We’re honored to be doing the play in that context, and folks who care a great deal about the history of those events are very excited about the play.
So, we had several ladies and gentlemen who decided to deck themselves out and wear their ‘attire’ to the opening night of the play. I found it is called ‘attire’ and not a costume when I made the faux pas of thanking them for wearing their costumes to the event. Hey, I’m a theatre guy and everything is a costume to us in this biz. But, nonetheless, the gentleman with the period rifle attracted quite a bit of attention out front of the theatre and in our concession area before the show, and also at the reception afterwards. He politely checked his fire arm during the play, and I got to remind the audience that they weren’t at the theatre for a Town Hall meeting, even if some of them were armed.
It was all good natured fun, but I’m sure there were a few nervous looks from some folks given the crazy climate we’re currently living in. And, as many folks commented after the play, the hot button points in the play certainly reminded them of some of the same human failings that we’re seeing at play now in our current political shenanigans.
On the one hand, I’d welcome the publicity if we stirred up that kind of ruckus, but on the other hand one of the central themes of the play is that we always fail when we resort to the use of violence to solve our problems.