Men, get on your arms. We will proceed to the Ferry. You know what we are about.
That’s what John Brown says to his men on the night that they launched their raid on Harpers Ferry. It seems like an appropriate call today as we head into our first interaction with audiences as well.
When we debuted the world premiere of Robert E. Lee and John Brown: Lighting the Fuse in 2004 at Wayside Theatre, none of us knew what we had. It was a brand new play, sprung from my mind, and mid-wived to life by a capable production team and cast. Our capabilities have increased tremendously this time around, and is by and large more solid than that first one. That’s not taking anything away from those men who earlier did the journey. They did an excellent job, but this group is a bit more mature in what they bring to the table. The intellectual and passionate arguments crackle with a new fire in this new version, and the action seems much more intense this time around.
I keep going back and forth on whether or not this is another world premiere or not. I’ve made enough substantial changes to the script to warrant the label, but I’ve got a bias here that can’t be overlooked in making that call. Regardless, the play is indeed improved. It feels meatier, stronger, sleeker, and in a good way much, much, much, more complex.
We had a few folks watching the final dress rehearsal last night and they really got caught up in the story. Some were retired military and some were young people from our Youth Ambassadors Guild. Both extremes commented on how powerful the story was and how rich the characters were. The surge of the first act really swept them up, and as the arguments of the play take hold in Act 2, you good hear a pin/pen drop in the theatre. I know because I dropped mine and watched heads turn in disgust.
So, we’ll do the play in front of strangers today. We’ll see how they respond. We’ll make some adjustments. And then we’ll throw this beast at the world with the opening night performance tomorrow. It is going to be a weekend, that’s for sure.