When the curtain parts on Marquette’s spring musical, audience members should prepare to get schooled.
1776 begins its two-weekend show Friday night at the Rudy Hart Theatre. While most spring productions go heavy on entertainment, 1776 represents an enchanting fusion of education and entertainment.
“Everyone is familiar with John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. But unless you’re a huge history buff, there are a lot of important names involved with our country’s founding that get glossed over,” director Amy Crane said.
No, 1776 is not the high-school version of the Broadway sensation Hamilton. (Although Lin-Manuel Miranda laid plenty of 1776-themed easter eggs in Hamilton.) While the two timelines run parallel, 1776’s focus centers on the Second Continental Congress and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.
In offering a glimpse beyond the fourth wall, Crane has observed the outside-the-classroom learning taking place.
“Some of our performers can’t read and learn enough about the characters they’re playing. There has been a significant educational component to this show,” Crane mentioned.
In fact, it’s because of higher education that Crane finally went ahead with 1776. It comes as no surprise that 1776 is outfitted with a large cast of, well, older white guys - not exactly a seamless personnel transition for high-school thespians. In completing her Master of Liberal Arts at Indiana University Bloomington - a degree she completed this past December - Crane underwent her own revolution.
“I’ve always wanted to do this show. Since going through my graduate coursework, I’ve realized ‘what does it matter whose telling the story?’ Everyone knows John Adams is a man. I will never be John Adams. I will never be a 5-foot-7 man. That doesn’t mean I’m unable to tell his story. It doesn’t change the historical context of what he did,” she said.
As for a cast of teenage girls portraying middle-aged men?
“I think they got more excited about being able to play a role that is non-traditional,” Crane remarked.
While principal Casey Martin, a noted history aficionado and burgeoning carpenter, made his on-stage debut two years ago as Theodore Roosevelt in Newsies, his contributions will be felt in his craftsmanship this time around.
“He built the voting board for our set. It’s probably one of the greatest pieces we’ve ever had,” Crane said.
1776 runs March 10th, 11th, 17th, and 18th at 6:30 pm and March 12th and 19th at 1:30 pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors/students.