BWW Blog: James Beaman of Cape Playhouse's 1776 - The Adams Papers, Part One

June 19
10:23 AM 2014
BWW Blog: James Beaman of Cape Playhouse's 1776 - The Adams Papers, Part One

In this week's post, I literally touch a piece of history.

One of the best things about researching John Adams is that he is one of the most documented men in American history, mainly due to his extensive journaling, and the preservation of his personal correspondence by the succeeding generations of the Adams family. These extraordinary documents offer a window into the mind and heart of this impassioned patriot. And fortunately for us all, they are lovingly preserved by the Massachusetts Historical Society.

As I was planning a visit home to Massachusetts to explore the Adams National Historical Park, I decided to send a note to the Historical Society to request an on camera interview with someone there to talk about Adams. Imagine my delight when I received an invitation from librarian Peter Drummey to come and enjoy a private viewing of original Adams letters and documents! Peter, and his colleague Sara Georgini, Assistant Editor of the Adams Papers, enthusiastically and generously opened the doors to the inner sanctum of their archive!

Peter is a charming, eloquent man who clearly loves what he does, and he is also a fan of 1776 so he was able to give me wonderful insights into the inspirations for the role from the historical record, and the ways the writers took liberties in their creation of Adams. Being a history geek, I need not tell you how thrilling it was to go into the archives and to have Peter pull out actual letters that had been held by John and Abigail Adams-and then touch them myself. Peter wanted me to make sure I told viewers of my video blog that there are different schools of thought about the handling of these precious papers. Some institutions require the wearing of cotton gloves; Peter and his colleagues believe that having a barrier between the hands and the document can actually cause more damage, and so they handle them gently with bare hands.

There was so much fascinating information that Peter and Sara shared with me, I had to do two segments for the vlog to really give a sense of what I learned during my visit to the Historical Society. This segment is focused on the letters of John and Abigail and their extraordinary partnership, captured beautifully in 1776. In addition to seeing some of their most famous letters, I also got to view the earliest known portraits of the couple by Benjamin Blyth, also housed at this wonderful institution. Tune in again next week for part two of my visit with the Adams papers! For more information, visit

And to catch up on all the posts of my vlog, check out the playlist I created on YouTube:

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About the Author

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Guest Blogger: James Beaman JAMES BEAMAN has played roles in nearly every stage genre, and is also an award winning cabaret artiste. He starred as Sir Robin in the First National Tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot,” performing nearly 700 performances alongside stars such as Richard Chamberlain, Gary Beach and John O’Hurley. An avid blogger, James blogged his entire adventure on the Spamalot tour. He has created roles in two new musicals, The Road To Qatar! (Off-Broadway, Original Cast Album) and Frog Kiss. Recent credits include Max in The Sound of Music (North Shore Music Theatre, IRNE Award nomination) and Milt in Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Flat Rock Playhouse). James has also performed with Goodspeed Musicals, The Kennedy Center, Ogunquit Playhouse, Stages St. Louis, and numerous Shakespeare Festivals. His cabaret acts have been awarded the MAC and Bistro Awards. James is also a coach for performers in New York City. This summer, he will play the iconic leading role of John Adams in 1776 at Cape Playhouse, opposite Tony nominee Christiane Noll. He then goes to Orlando Shakespeare Theatre to play Thénardier in Les Misérables. James received his training at The Shakespeare Theatre Company Academy for Classical Acting, and at Boston University School for the Arts. Visit him at