Sunday, May 04, 2008

Revolutionary City: Outdoor colonial drama in Williamsburg


I visited the Revolutionary City dramatic stagings in Williamsburg in the spring of 2006, shortly after it opened. The outdoor drama takes place in two sessions on alternate days, each a bit over two hours, demonstrating the events that led up to the Revolutionary War and the daily life of colonists during and after the Revolutionary War.

The main link provided by Colonial Williamsburg is provided by Colonial Williamsburg, here. Another useful link is “Ready to Join the Revolution,” this.

The first session is “Collapse of the Royal Government” with much of the action at the old Capitol. The CW website gives the breakdown into further acts.

The second session (on alternate days) is “Citizens at War,” with much of the activity on the blocks around the Raleigh Tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street.

Colonial Williamsburg recently added a session “Building a Nation” that plays on Mondays.

The skits, with professional actors, would be quite demanding to perform daily, in full colonial dress, with leggings.

For me, the “Citizens at War” skits were the most interesting and provided moral dilemmas that map to those of our days. For example, slaves are promised by the British that they will be freed if they rise up against their masters, and wonder what would happen to them if the British lose (which they did). A thirty year old carpenter looks for work making coffins and wants to join the Revolutionary Army for George Washington, but his wife expects him to stay home to look after his family.

During the Revolutionary War, the colonists looked to colonial militias to find soldiers. There is some dispute in reference sources as to whether they were “drafted” in the sense of more modern conscription (as in the Civil War, all the way to World War II and Vietnam). Often soldiers returned home to tend to farms or businesses or look after families.

The Capitol offers a dramatic tour which explains how the modern branches of US government derived from colonial times, with the courts originally coming from the aristocracy.

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