BWW Review: World Premiere of Gabridge's BLOOD ON THE SNOW
Blood on the Snow
A new play by Patrick Gabridge, Directed by Courtney O'Connor; Executive Producer, Patrick Gabridge; Producer, Rebecca Bradshaw; Costume Design, Laurie Bramhall; Scenic & Props Design, Katharine Burkhart; Lighting Design, Sean Sliney; Sound Design, Brendan F. Doyle; Production Historian & Dramaturg, Nathaniel Sheidley; Stage Manager, Jeremiah Mullane; Assistant Stage Manager, Alta Lewis Millard
Performances presented by The Bostonian Society in partnership with the National Park Service through June 5 at the Old State House, 206 Washington Street, Boston, MA; Most remaining performances are sold out. For more information about this project, please contact Nathaniel Sheidley, Historian and Director of Public History at (617) 720-1713 ext. 29 or go to the website: www.bloodonthesnow.com
What do you know about the Boston Massacre? The March 5, 1770, event sounds like something big and bloody. In actuality, five unarmed civilians were killed and eight more wounded by the soldiers of King George III, but it was a watershed moment in rallying the citizenry of Boston to demand the removal of British troops from the city. On the morning of March 6, Acting Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson and other leaders convened in the Council Chamber in the Old State House to determine what action to take in the aftermath of the violent street fight in order to restore calm and prevent further bloodshed.
If this sounds like a good idea for a play, Boston playwright Patrick Gabridge is way ahead of you. Under the aegis of the Bostonian Society, in partnership with the National Park Service, Gabridge has imagined the details of the March 6 meeting to create a theatrical piece of living history. Adding to the verisimilitude of Blood on the Snow, the performances take place in the very room where the councilors carried out the business of colonial governance. Although there is no transcript of what transpired, Gabridge researched the historical facts and the individuals involved to determine what might have informed their decisions. Applying dramatic license, he selected a representative trio from the 28-member Council, one military commander, one eyewitness, and two leaders of the Town Meeting to tell the story.
The world premiere production, directed by Courtney O'Connor, features a strong ensemble led by Dale Place as Hutchinson, deftly portraying his struggle with the Hobson's choice placed before him. Daniel Berger-Jones is the sympathetic Lt. Colonel William Dalrymple, commander of the occupying forces, who understands what is at stake, even as he adheres to protocol. Members of the Council are Royall Tyler (Bill Mootos), Harrison Gray (Arthur Waldstein), and Samuel Dexter (Lewis D. Wheeler), and the Governor's brother-in-law and Provincial Secretary Andrew Oliver (Ken Baltin) is an additional advisor. Each speaks out in regard to the desires of their constituencies, leading to a lively debate. When a slave named Andrew (Peter G. Andersen) appears as an eyewitness to the massacre, he is met with mixed reactions, indicating that the seeds of America's racial issues have a very long history. John Hancock (a genteel Matt Ryan) and Samuel Adams (a feisty Brett Milanowski) bring the demands from the Town Meeting. William Baker (Scot Colford) is a steady presence as the doorkeeper.
Gabridge and the actors skillfully build the tension and drama in the play, despite the fact that we all know that eventually a revolution took place, the British were defeated, and we celebrated the birth of our nation half a dozen years later. Whether or not one remembers all the battles and events along the way, it never hurts to be reminded of the men (mostly) who were figuring it out as it happened. To be situated in the Council Chamber in the Old State House, surrounded by period artifacts and the portraits of Kings, and watching fine actors dressed in evocative colonial costumes, while the shouts and huzzahs of the crowd can be heard outside the tall windows, is an opportunity to be virtually present while history is being made. No special glasses required.
Photo credit: Nile Hawver (Cast of BLOOD ON THE SNOW)