Revolution 250 Podcast

Plays in Place with Patrick Gabridge

October 17, 2023 Patrick Gabridge Season 4 Episode 40
Revolution 250 Podcast
Plays in Place with Patrick Gabridge
Show Notes Transcript

Playwright Patrick Gabridge uses theatre to convey the human story of the Revolution and other historic events.  Through his "Plays in Place" he and actors have told the stories of the Boston Massacre in the Council Chamber of the Old State House, the decision for independence at Old North Church, as well as the stories of abolitionists and others at Mount Auburn Cemetery.  The scenes are local, the human dimension is universal.  He is also the author of non-historical plays, screenplays, and novels, and an engaging story-teller using the power of place to tell America's Revolutionary story.

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 Hello, everyone.
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 Welcome to the Revolution 250 podcast.
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 I'm Bob Allison.
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 I chair the Rev 250 Advisory Group, also teach at Suffolk University.
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 And Revolution 250 is a collaboration among about 70 groups in Massachusetts looking at ways to commemorate the beginnings of American independence.
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 And our guest today is Patrick Gabrich.
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 Patrick, thanks for joining us.
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 Thanks for having me.
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 And Patrick is a playwright as well as a novelist.
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 You've done a wide range of different full-length plays, one-act plays, but the ones we really want to talk about are the ones you've done for Plays in Place, which is an organization you've started, which actually puts on historical plays in the room where they happened, which is a tremendous idea.
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 You know, you've done them here at Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, Old North Church, Mount Auburn Cemetery, the Roosevelt Campobello International Park.
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 And we'll just talk about the revolution.
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 And you've always been drawn to history.
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 Even your plays that aren't historical often have a history theme.
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 Yes, exactly.
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 I think the revolution draw comes from living in Boston for so long.
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 I lived in Boston for 22 years.
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 Now I'm out in western Massachusetts, but I'm in Boston all the time for our shows.
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 Yeah, just the joy of kind of walking down the streets of Boston and feeling history all around you.
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 And obviously the revolution is just so omnipresent when you're there.
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 It is.
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 It is.
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 Yeah, 1 of the really interesting ones you did was blood on the snow, which takes place in the council chamber of the old state house on March 6 of 1770.
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 That was the project that really launched this whole endeavor for me here.
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 I had done a bunch of site-specific work in Colorado years ago and had been writing historical plays on and off about various subjects for a while.
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 And then Nat Shidely at the Old State House, which then was the Bostonian Society, now is Revolutionary Spaces, had approached me and said, you know, they had just restored the council chamber and it felt like a play set to them.
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 And they were looking for a playwright to work with them and make a play for that space.
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 At the time, it felt a little risky in that, you know, I think they were used to having lecture series there, but, you know, that were moderately attended.
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 But it was, you know, a lot of the same people coming to things.
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 There's a big question is, are audiences going to come to see a show on a Thursday night in downtown Boston at a museum where they're not always sure they can go in?
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 Right, right.
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 And they did.
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 They went crazy for it.
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 So that was great.
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 We sold out that run before we opened.
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 We brought it back for a 12-week run the summer after.
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 So the first run was in 2016.
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 The second one was in 2017.
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 And that show was... The opportunity was so exciting.
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 And to walk in there with Nat and just kind of see, like, oh, I totally see how the play worked, how a play could work in here.
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 It felt like the set of a play.
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 And then, you know, the first...
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 tricky part is figuring out what's the story.
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 What is the story we're gonna tell in this room?
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 And he was already there to kind of steer me towards that moment, but it was definitely him giving me piles of books, me taking them home, reading about the Boston Massacre and understanding like, well, how are we gonna frame this in this space?
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 What is the mode that it's gonna need to operate in?
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 So it happens the morning after and Governor Hutchinson and the council are meeting with this now crisis that has landed
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 with these five people, four people dead, and the town in Flint town outraged, and the soldiers in jail.
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 So how do you choose the characters who are going to be part of this?
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 Because I don't want to delve into too many of your secrets of how you craft something like this, but it was just such a fascinating piece to see unfold.
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 Well, Governor Hutchinson was, you know, obviously going to be kind of at the core.
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 Well, I don't want to say obviously going to be at the core of this, because we could have easily done a piece centered on Hancock and Adams, who are, and Samuel Adams, who are the characters in the play.
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 But it's really what...
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 The tricky thing is figuring out in these pieces is kind of what is the moment that we're going to dramatize?
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 What is the crystallization?
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 And the crystallization was Hutchinson has to make a decision.
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 Is he going to tell the troops to leave or not?
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 He doesn't want them to leave for a lot of reasons.
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 One is they're protecting him against a lot of people with guns.
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 But the other reason is he is a man of law.
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 and feels that it is actually not his decision to make.
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 He is acting governor.
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 Those troops don't report to him.
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 They report to the crown.
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 The crown is not there.
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 So he has an impossible decision.
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 Does he risk the townspeople coming in and destroying the troops that are there?
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 Does he risk...
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 you know, approbation from back in London and him possibly losing a job that he's wanted his whole life.
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 That kind of dramatic tension is really rich for us.
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 It is.
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 It is.
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 It really works.
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 And then you also have, you know, Samuel Adams and John Hancock appear, but they're representing the town, which is making up the street.
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 And then you have other characters on the council, like Royal Tyler, Samuel Dexter, these other...
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 most of our listeners will have heard of Thomas Hutchinson and probably some notes can tell us more about Samuel Dexter and Royal Tyler, but I'm just wondering how you decided on which of these characters and then where the dialogue comes from, I guess.
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 Yeah, it was tricky because we knew that, so I knew we'd have Hutchinson, Hancock and Adams.
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 Dexter made a lot of sense.
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 Royal Tyler,
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 was a difficult personality for sure.
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 So he is a good person to have in the room going to produce drama.
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 Harrison Gray is someone we've got in there.
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 Who's, you know, somewhat loyalist leaning.
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 Um, and then, um,
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 his, his brother-in-law, Andrew Oliver is there too, who is definitely loyalist leaning.
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 So it was important to populate the group around the table with a mix of people who are going to have different opinions.
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 And then the action of the play is actually watching each of them switch their view.
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 So they're kind of all on one side.
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 And then as the play goes, it's kind of like 12 angry men, right?
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 It's, it's,
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 You're watching people turn one by one, and Hutchinson has to be the last one to go.
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 Yeah, yeah, yeah.
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 And also Andrew appears.
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 Andrew is a servant to Oliver Wendell, and he testifies at the trials, too, in the
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 And that was an important addition that felt ahistorical.
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 And that's always a tricky thing when we're doing a play at a museum in that the audience expects there to be a certain factual correctness when you're doing a play at a museum that you might not expect in a theater.
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 We do know that he gave testimony in the trial.
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 We were using the transcript of that testimony.
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 So what he was saying is something he said.
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 Would he have said it that particular day?
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 you know, probably not.
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 But it was what he's saying is important.
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 His presence is important to show that Boston was a multiracial society at that time, that slavery was very much a presence in 1770.
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 So you kind of make, you weigh those choices.
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 And, you know, we talked carefully with the Bostonian society at the time to figure out, you know, are they okay with that?
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 And they were great about giving us artistic license, but within the historical framework.
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 And that's,
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 That's a tricky balancing act any time we're doing a show.
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 But that was really important, too.
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 And also we've got the doorkeeper, the house manager there, who's another character, kind of an everyman, who's outside of these positions of power, who also has something to say kind of at the end of the play.
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 And that was important, too, to show just the diversity around town of opinions and experience.
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 Right, right.
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 And you did another play at the Old State House with the door of the Hancock House, Cato and Dolly.
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 Cato and Dolly was so followed right on the heels of Blood on the Snow, same building just down the hall.
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 And they were building an exhibit around untold stories called Through the Keyhole.
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 we wanted to build a play around this artifact.
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 So they had the door from the original Hancock Mansion, which was, the mansion itself was demolished in 1863, but they still had the door and it's sitting in storage for like a hundred years.
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 And North Bennett Street School was building us around for it.
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 And then our charge was, we want you to build a play that's about people in the Hancock household,
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 that we might not know their stories of.
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 It's going to be around the door.
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 You can't touch, open, or go through the door, which was kind of a funny thing.
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 But we had to figure out kind of like, who are the people?
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 How do we tell this story?
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 And so the play revolves around Dolly Hancock, John Hancock's wife, and Kato, who is enslaved in the Hancock household, and then who remains working for them
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 after he's freed, according to the will of Hancock's uncle and aunt.
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 It was a really interesting challenge.
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 And also, this was a different experience in that the first show, Blood on the Snow, was a special ticketed event.
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 It was bringing in big audiences.
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 The second show was one designed to have less wear and tear on the museum staff because long runs can do that.
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 This was during the regular museum exhibit.
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 So you didn't buy a special ticket for this.
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 Audiences were just going to come through, sit for a 25-minute show, and then go and see how that went.
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 And so we had a very small cast, so it was only two actors playing everybody.
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 And so they progressed through the relationship that these two people would have had in the household over the course of 40 years, punctuated by moments from the revolution that is happening around them.
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 Hancock's go to Philadelphia, she loses two children, and Cato is involved with John Hancock and other visitors, and so we're able to get the two people to play a lot of characters, cover a lot of history, but also showing very much, again, slavery's presence in New England and what Black presence in New England felt like in Cato's need to align himself with protective
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 positions of power.
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 So, like, why does he stay with the Hancocks?
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 Well, Hancocks are the most powerful, richest family in town.
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 He makes a calculated decision to stay to protect himself and his family.
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 So, and then looking at a woman's life in the colonies was important, even though Dolly Hancock is certainly in a position of great power, she still is dealing with issues of child loss and marriage and the disruption of the war was really important to kind of show.
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 Really, yeah, it does.
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 We're talking with Patrick Gavridge, who was a playwright, author
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 as he's done at the old state house.
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 Now, there's also a Cato character who appears in the play he did for Old North, which involves Cato and Mather Biles and John Pulling.
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 The day Biles is dismissed by the congregation, which is the day of Lexington and Concord, he's packing up to leave.
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 Yeah, so Revolution's Edge is a play that Old North commissioned us to do.
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 Yeah, so it's a different Cato, but he's enslaved by Mother Biles and his family.
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 And it was an interesting challenge to figure out.
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 It was such an interesting day on the verge of war.
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 The day before Lexington had conquered and pulling...
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 at the start of the play, doesn't know that he's going to hang one of those lanterns that night.
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 But by the end of the play, he does.
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 And Mather Biles is trying to figure out how he's going to manage safety for his family now that he doesn't work for this church anymore.
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 And also concern for
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 the faith journey of his parishioners, which I think is something that Old North really brought to me that I hadn't really considered for the impact of the revolution, that these Anglican churches were mostly shuttered in New England during the war.
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 And so all of a sudden, these people had no access to baptism or burial or a marriage.
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 It was a big deal.
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 um and so to be able to stage that in this historic church on its 300th anniversary felt really important and had a big impact we we saw a lot of people this summer we'll be coming back next summer for oh good very good we'll do 10 weeks four days a week next summer so another good 40 shows yeah good now you do have these three characters all on their faith journey but also making this choice about which side they're going to be on in this event that's about to break out
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 Right, and all three of them are fathers of young children, which was an important lesson to me as I'm probing through the research, trying to figure out how are these people connected?
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 And and that was definitely something they all had in common.
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 They all I mean, they all lived in the same neighborhood, though Cato's family lived in Roxbury because as it was common and slave families often didn't all live together.
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 They were split between two households.
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 But he's there files and pulling files.
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 were neighbors their wives would have known each other their children would have played together and so really getting down to the human aspect that often gets kind of trodden underfoot in the big picture of the revolution um but i think we're seeing more books around that like serena zabin's recent book um really looked at families i think that was really important
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 Because otherwise we lose track.
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 And I think when we're comparing contemporary modern conflicts to past conflicts, it's important to understand there's human costs in all of these.
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 Oh, definitely.
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 It's easy to lose track when you look back, though.
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 It's like, oh, generals moved here and there.
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 Yeah, it was really a war that involved civilians in a big way.
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 And you really capture that in all of these plays, the choices that these individuals are making, people who know each other.
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 It's not as though
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 Hancock and Hutchinson didn't know each other before.
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 And that's, I think, a big piece of the story.
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 It's a small community that's breaking apart.
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 Well, I think all of my historical plays in Boston have felt that way, including some of the stuff we did at Mount Auburn Cemetery, where you realize, like, oh, yeah, I mean, yeah, there's 100,000 people buried there, but at any given time, there's not that many people living in Boston at once.
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 That's right.
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 And social circles are tight.
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 We were doing some plays around...
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 the abolition movement in Boston too.
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 Moonlight abolitionists.
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 You've done 11 of these one-act plays for Mount Auburn.
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 We can talk about those because it's really a fascinating project.
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 Those were an amazing gift.
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 I was artist in residence there for a few years and we did five plays around the natural world, though one of them was actually historical around Louis Agassiz and Asa Gray and their ghostly perception of legacy.
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 But then five more around history through the lens of Mount Auburn, looking from the 1830s all the way to the Armenian Genocide.
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 And about families who were, an Armenian family who is buried at Mount Auburn and about their journey getting there.
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 But also a lot of other people you wouldn't have heard of.
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 So you have 11,000 people to choose from.
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 How do you make the choice of which one?
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 I have 100,000 people to choose from.
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 I'm sorry.
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 If only it was 11,000.
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 I spent six months to a year just walking around, reading, using their records.
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 And there's so many people left out.
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 And that was why I actually did this other play, Moonlight Abolitionists.
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 that is a concert reading designed to be performed under the full moon at a swirling conversation between six abolitionists buried there.
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 And I hadn't touched, in the first 10 plays, I hadn't touched abolition at all.
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 And to do this play under the full moon, it's meant to be like, there's only a few nights of the year when you can do it, but it's a pretty powerful experience to get to be out there.
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 And so-
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 and that's the thing when we're doing these things, the space plays a big role.
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 Uh, I would say definitely when we were in, uh, at the old state house, you know, the council chamber has such an impact.
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 Well, I say those spaces often the extra character and Cato and Dolly, it was not the space, but the door, but that door was omnipresent.
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 We're doing a play, uh, centered around the revolution right now, just in kind of R and D phase for, um,
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 the Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine in Connecticut, Granby.
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 And assuming all the funding comes through, the plan is for that place to center around a 1781 prison break of Loyalist prisoners.
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 I get to find out about these historical events that just get left behind.
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 And the realization that people are being tossed into this pit
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 Basically, they're political views.
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 I mean, they're political prisoners.
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 There's no other way to look at it.
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 I mean, the list says kind of what each person's incarcerated for, and by a bunch of these people, it just says Tory.
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 Jonathan reminds us that Benjamin Church was there earlier than 1781, but also William Frank.
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 people who ran afoul of their neighbors because they're on the wrong side.
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 You can go down into this mine.
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 It's not big enough for us to perform in it, but I think we're going to do a first act, we're still figuring out, maybe talking to the prison guards who one of them died and they were interviewed.
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 We have their transcript of the interviews, which are just wild.
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 And then I think we'll take the audience down into the mine so they can see for themselves what this place is like.
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 You can't imagine being in there for more than an hour, let alone two or three years.
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 It's horrible.
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 Is there lighting down in it?
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 At the time, there was maybe some shaft of light from a few air holes, but they weren't allowed to have fire down there.
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 So they're sitting down in the dripping...
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 dark, come up to do some work sometimes, especially later in the prison's life.
 20:12.325 --> 20:15.828
 But during that time, they weren't so heavily involved in work details.
 20:16.268 --> 20:16.969
 20:18.610 --> 20:23.454
 They lived in wooden cabins, but even that doesn't seem to... Wow.
 20:23.874 --> 20:24.554
 That's fascinating.
 20:24.574 --> 20:25.555
 What a great project.
 20:26.036 --> 20:30.639
 We're talking with Patrick Average, playwright, about some of his work in sites.
 20:31.560 --> 20:36.203
 Let me ask you, if there was an historical site you would really think, boy, I'd really love
 20:38.011 --> 20:39.051
 It must be a long list.
 20:39.792 --> 20:40.492
 It is a long list.
 20:40.512 --> 20:41.793
 There's a lot of spaces.
 20:41.813 --> 20:46.656
 If I did one around Boston, I think the USS Constitution would be pretty high on my list.
 20:48.557 --> 20:49.878
 A lot of great stories there.
 20:50.358 --> 20:50.779
 Oh, man.
 20:50.839 --> 20:55.942
 Yeah, and to get to do one on that actual ship, that'd be pretty cool.
 20:57.643 --> 20:58.664
 I would definitely like to do that.
 20:58.904 --> 21:01.365
 We have a play coming up that does feel like a dream.
 21:01.405 --> 21:03.827
 We're still waiting to see if it's actually going to happen, but
 21:04.448 --> 21:12.654
 We're doing a play around the 1838 speech by Angelina Grimke to the legislature about abolition and introducing women's rights into that.
 21:13.115 --> 21:20.581
 The idea is to stage it in the Senate chamber of the Massachusetts State House in August of 2024.
 21:20.621 --> 21:21.341
 So we're waiting.
 21:22.062 --> 21:23.523
 Hopefully we'll get a thumbs up.
 21:25.164 --> 21:27.906
 I don't know, but we're hopeful we've done some readings there.
 21:28.086 --> 21:29.327
 It's an amazing space.
 21:29.628 --> 21:31.429
 It's an amazing moment in time.
 21:32.069 --> 21:32.730
 Yeah, yeah.
 21:34.074 --> 21:35.375
 That's another great space.
 21:35.495 --> 21:40.659
 And again, there are galleries for the public, but they can also be, I'm not telling you how to stage it.
 21:40.779 --> 21:42.460
 No, it's pretty cool.
 21:42.680 --> 21:46.023
 And yeah, that'd be a great one.
 21:46.783 --> 21:52.447
 but Constitution of the places that I don't have access to right now, that'd be pretty high up there.
 21:53.228 --> 21:56.791
 And I think it's, oh, go ahead.
 21:56.831 --> 22:02.656
 I'll just say, the one thing that is important for people to understand is that what we're doing is kind of this odd thing.
 22:02.696 --> 22:04.137
 It's not a reenactment.
 22:04.717 --> 22:06.958
 And it's not costume interpretation.
 22:07.038 --> 22:12.079
 It's really an actual drama that's scripted in with professional actors.
 22:12.159 --> 22:18.580
 And so it ends up being this kind of thing that feels unexpected sometimes when you go to a site like, oh, who opened a theater here?
 22:18.980 --> 22:19.200
 22:19.641 --> 22:19.821
 22:20.361 --> 22:20.541
 22:20.801 --> 22:23.702
 And a drama is different than simply a costume reenactment.
 22:23.722 --> 22:30.223
 But if you have to have a beginning, middle, and you have to have these different components, you also have to have dramatic tension.
 22:31.623 --> 22:31.963
 22:31.983 --> 22:34.064
 If I'm telling my story, then you're telling your story.
 22:35.253 --> 22:39.776
 Yes, it all has to go together to be a piece, and that's the tricky part.
 22:39.896 --> 22:46.201
 And it also requires that sometimes we've got to fill in the gaps.
 22:46.922 --> 22:47.242
 22:47.682 --> 22:49.363
 That was true with Blood on the Snow.
 22:49.403 --> 22:54.567
 I mean, there was not a great transcript of the meetings that took place that day.
 22:55.027 --> 22:58.050
 There was one published by Andrew Oliver, but it was heavily biased.
 22:59.091 --> 23:02.233
 So, yeah, everyone always asks, like, how do you know what they said?
 23:02.333 --> 23:04.655
 Well, no one knows what they said.
 23:05.115 --> 23:13.280
 What we do know is kind of what these people had at stake and who they were and what they were bringing to the table.
 23:13.741 --> 23:16.022
 And in that case, you know, that was an interesting thing.
 23:16.042 --> 23:17.263
 Like you said, how do we pick the people?
 23:17.323 --> 23:18.764
 And also, how do we pick people not there?
 23:19.733 --> 23:26.196
 And that the actual event of the day was many more people in that room, more than twice as many as we had.
 23:27.136 --> 23:28.516
 And the day stretched out.
 23:28.596 --> 23:33.698
 So dramatically, it's a thing of figuring out, well, how do I compress it into a moment?
 23:34.399 --> 23:39.120
 How do I have a manageable number of human beings that are there and have enough room for an audience?
 23:40.641 --> 23:44.583
 So there's a lot of calculations that have to go into each of these things.
 23:45.023 --> 23:45.203
 23:45.923 --> 23:51.410
 Um, and every, everything we do, we did a play called I am this place that, uh, we hire other writers too.
 23:51.450 --> 24:01.301
 So, uh, Miranda wrote this play about Christmas addicts and his ancestors that we staged for a short run at, uh, old South meeting house.
 24:01.641 --> 24:01.762
 24:02.262 --> 24:13.336
 And again, that's a tricky thing to figure out how, and that was a very small cast during the pandemic, so it was like two people portraying multi-generations of this man's life.
 24:14.538 --> 24:18.142
 And an ending, it was a different take in that it ends with the
 24:19.003 --> 24:44.769
 a massacre uh right i think and i appreciated miranda's take on that where i think a lot of people would be like start from the massacre yes and yeah i think loved her view of christmas addicts as someone's son right and yeah you know what does that mean um yeah for that loss and that's important for the massacre overall too right like any time with things like that like who are the families that are impacted by this thing
 24:45.836 --> 24:46.376
 Right, right.
 24:46.616 --> 24:49.198
 Now, a lot of your plays do deal with this connection.
 24:49.218 --> 24:53.540
 You have a number of plays about parents and children and those various issues.
 24:54.500 --> 25:05.465
 And a lot of plays about two people trapped in a room, an elevator or a lifeboat, or a couple who seal themselves inside a room when they're redoing their house.
 25:06.086 --> 25:10.868
 Is that because you just want to do something with two actors, or is that something you're really thinking about, how people connect?
 25:11.808 --> 25:13.149
 I think some of those are both.
 25:13.189 --> 25:14.109
 There is a whole...
 25:17.325 --> 25:19.887
 uh, dramatic market for duets.
 25:20.588 --> 25:28.274
 Um, so some of those were things I was writing for the specific idea that people are using these in competition and small theaters.
 25:28.675 --> 25:39.344
 Um, it's really manageable, but also there's something really pleasurable about writing a two person piece where they're carrying the weight and especially if it's a long two person pieces are kind of hard.
 25:39.384 --> 25:40.485
 I have a couple of those, but, uh,
 25:41.509 --> 25:45.612
 Like Kato and Dolly, where those two actors are doing eight different characters.
 25:46.052 --> 25:48.254
 It's enjoyable to watch that happen.
 25:50.456 --> 25:52.177
 And so I think that makes a lot of sense.
 25:52.237 --> 26:00.703
 And I think anytime we're finding situations that up the dramatic tension, it is a big plus.
 26:02.224 --> 26:07.908
 And I think even Revolution's Edge at Old North Church, it has that feel of...
 26:08.817 --> 26:09.958
 They're in this church.
 26:09.978 --> 26:12.799
 They're not trapped there, but something is happening outside.
 26:13.099 --> 26:14.700
 They know something is happening.
 26:15.180 --> 26:20.062
 And so they leave a little bit, and the stakes keep rising every time someone leaves.
 26:21.769 --> 26:29.534
 But they're trying to find some answers that aren't really readily available as to what comes next for us.
 26:29.554 --> 26:36.498
 And I am really interested in families when it comes to history, especially lately.
 26:37.118 --> 26:40.560
 Maybe because I've watched my own kids grow up.
 26:41.221 --> 26:46.044
 But I think it's a part that gets so often overlooked.
 26:46.984 --> 26:51.247
 And I really found this with Cato and Dolly.
 26:52.233 --> 26:58.316
 where the history books, I mean, she's essentially barely recorded.
 26:58.796 --> 26:59.956
 Her letters don't survive.
 26:59.977 --> 27:01.157
 She didn't like to write letters.
 27:01.197 --> 27:03.978
 He's always begging her, please write to me, please say something to me.
 27:04.699 --> 27:11.282
 So she's not that well recorded as opposed to Martha Washington or Abigail Adams or Jefferson's wife.
 27:12.582 --> 27:14.843
 And you can see it like in the musical 1776, those are some of the characters
 27:19.238 --> 27:22.080
 She's not there in that musical.
 27:22.160 --> 27:26.543
 However, she was very much there serving an important role in 75.
 27:26.843 --> 27:35.729
 I mean, she was his social secretary when they're on the run at the First Continental Congress where he's president.
 27:35.789 --> 27:36.689
 She's doing everything.
 27:36.909 --> 27:38.450
 And she's six months pregnant.
 27:39.031 --> 27:39.211
 27:40.249 --> 27:44.193
 And that just doesn't show up in the historical record or in the books.
 27:44.313 --> 27:47.396
 You know, they're written by people that aren't thinking about that kind of thing.
 27:47.416 --> 27:50.879
 And I'm like, well, do the math and figure out, like, what is this woman going through?
 27:50.899 --> 27:52.040
 Right, right.
 27:53.821 --> 28:02.009
 Because I think it tells us... And the important thing about family situations is it tells us a lot more about people's mindsets.
 28:02.169 --> 28:02.809
 And we can say...
 28:04.062 --> 28:20.429
 yes 250 years ago people's relationships to death and illness was different in a way but i don't know if you look at like i read all of mother i read a lot of i don't know but mother biles's papers are preserved at uh mass historical society
 28:21.681 --> 28:32.225
 And what reading those letters showed me was how close he was to his children, and that they wrote letters to stay in touch with the family all the time, and that family was really important to him.
 28:32.645 --> 28:35.146
 He didn't care that much about the people who were enslaved in his household.
 28:35.186 --> 28:36.046
 He hardly mentions them.
 28:36.286 --> 28:39.788
 But he cared a lot about his children and his father and his sisters.
 28:40.688 --> 28:42.069
 28:42.109 --> 28:43.369
 He was a New Englander, too.
 28:44.770 --> 28:45.730
 He's from the Mather family.
 28:46.499 --> 28:54.784
 Yes, but has become an Anglican, which is a little crazy.
 28:54.804 --> 28:57.926
 He's also fond of punning, apparently.
 28:58.446 --> 29:02.709
 Well, I think punning may be an illness, but he does a lot of it.
 29:03.529 --> 29:12.715
 Yeah, sadly, I feel like I didn't capture that very well in my play, but I think the modern ear for punning and their ear for punning is a little bit, our stomach for it perhaps has changed.
 29:13.106 --> 29:13.527
 That's right.
 29:14.228 --> 29:14.809
 Let's just say that.
 29:15.029 --> 29:17.493
 I think it might have been one of the reasons they dismissed him.
 29:19.696 --> 29:20.498
 Very well could be.
 29:20.738 --> 29:22.040
 He was in an impossible position.
 29:22.220 --> 29:24.404
 He was fighting with them from the beginning, too, because...
 29:25.766 --> 29:47.526
 uh mostly over money and that's also a useful thing to realize is that you know all these people they're trying to make a living all right yeah best they can and especially during the war like 75 is a really good example so pulling is in this position where the port's been blockaded for a year there's nothing going in and out he's a ship's captain like he's got no money
 29:48.386 --> 30:16.507
 uh and that's true of a lot of the people in his class when we're looking at what's sparking the revolution like these guys are desperate for something to happen right right yeah yeah we're talking with patrick gabridge playwright author of a number of plays which you can see in the historical sites of boston and soon in connecticut uh plays in place he's also written a number of novels um you know one of your novels is about robert smoltz who was a uh
 30:17.478 --> 30:18.299
 Civil War hero.
 30:19.820 --> 30:21.041
 Really fascinating story.
 30:22.101 --> 30:22.542
 Oh, yeah.
 30:22.822 --> 30:32.308
 He's one of the... If we talk about people I would like to meet from history, most of the people I've written about, I'd like to meet Angelina Grimke, but I'd really like to meet Robert Smalls.
 30:32.328 --> 30:39.353
 This is a guy who was a ships pilot, an enslaved ships pilot in South Carolina during the war.
 30:40.134 --> 30:41.735
 During the Civil War.
 30:43.056 --> 30:44.357
 And he's in charge of...
 30:45.899 --> 30:52.943
 this steamship with a fairly small crew that is the main flagship for the admiral, the Confederate admiral there.
 30:53.203 --> 31:07.050
 And he comes up with a plan to steal this ship along with the entire crew and sneak past five heavily armed forts and deliver it to the Union Navy and pick up all their families along the way because it wasn't hard enough the first plan.
 31:08.170 --> 31:09.271
 And he does it.
 31:09.471 --> 31:09.591
 31:10.071 --> 31:11.072
 And that's just like the start.
 31:11.092 --> 31:13.633
 That's like the first third of the war story.
 31:13.773 --> 31:15.154
 I might just focus on the warriors.
 31:15.194 --> 31:17.336
 These are quite an incredible person.
 31:18.056 --> 31:18.817
 It really was, yeah.
 31:19.337 --> 31:24.080
 And that, again, the families, it's a critical part of that story of escaping, too.
 31:24.140 --> 31:29.343
 It's not just I'm going to get away, but my family and these other families will be coming with me.
 31:30.384 --> 31:30.624
 31:30.824 --> 31:35.928
 And that was such an important part of kind of the –
 31:36.516 --> 31:50.506
 the degradation of black character that slavery in the South kept trying to impose upon enslaved people of saying, well, they don't really care about their children, but all the evidence showed over and over and over and over again, that that was not true.
 31:51.067 --> 31:54.529
 And I think the smallest story is the perfect example of him.
 31:54.710 --> 31:54.930
 31:55.570 --> 32:05.738
 Literally making his escape to freedom so much harder by going to pick up his wife and two small children and the families of the other people on the ship, like that they were willing to risk their lives for that.
 32:06.510 --> 32:07.851
 For their families, yeah.
 32:07.871 --> 32:12.435
 There's a great short story by Charles W. Chestnut, the passing of Grandison about a man.
 32:12.495 --> 32:15.258
 His owner takes him to Canada and says how loyal he is.
 32:15.298 --> 32:15.958
 He never leaves.
 32:16.019 --> 32:21.704
 But then when they get back to Kentucky, Grandison and all of the enslaved people run.
 32:21.764 --> 32:23.365
 He knows how to go there, get there.
 32:23.765 --> 32:30.932
 I mean, it's the story of the family reconnecting and connecting, not leaving them behind, which is a.
 32:32.663 --> 32:42.167
 Anyway, your first play, I think it was your first play, was Fire on Earth, which is actually about a Bible translation in the 1500s.
 32:42.948 --> 32:45.769
 It's not my first play, but it was an important historical play.
 32:45.789 --> 32:49.350
 It was the first historical play I had done in Boston, so after I moved to Boston.
 32:50.591 --> 32:52.272
 We don't count anything that happens before.
 32:53.592 --> 32:55.113
 I think it's a strong Boston tradition.
 32:57.214 --> 33:01.476
 That was about William Tyndale and the men that he was associating with
 33:02.156 --> 33:05.218
 who were the first to translate and publish the Bible in English.
 33:05.818 --> 33:07.479
 And I remember being blown away.
 33:07.519 --> 33:11.602
 I went to an exhibit of Tyndale Bibles at the New York Public Library.
 33:11.662 --> 33:13.023
 This is ages and ages ago.
 33:13.543 --> 33:20.948
 And was shocked to find out that one, the church didn't want there to be a Bible in English at all.
 33:20.968 --> 33:21.028
 33:23.621 --> 33:33.604
 that the church literally... And so people like Tyndale, who is a genius, a linguistic genius, was doing this.
 33:33.664 --> 33:38.766
 And they were literally smuggling English Bibles into England from Europe.
 33:40.186 --> 33:43.167
 And the church was confiscating them and burning them on the steps of St.
 33:43.187 --> 33:43.908
 Paul's Cathedral.
 33:43.948 --> 33:45.248
 And I was like, what?
 33:46.848 --> 33:47.789
 How can that be?
 33:48.349 --> 33:49.489
 And then it just got worse.
 33:49.689 --> 33:51.070
 And then, you know, I...
 33:52.540 --> 33:56.685
 grew up in a Catholic household and Sir Thomas More was on the names of a lot of churches.
 33:56.705 --> 34:01.190
 And then you find out, oh, he was torturing, you know, supposedly heretics in his basement.
 34:01.410 --> 34:03.973
 And I was like, oh, that's not good.
 34:04.053 --> 34:06.255
 And there's a lot to explore.
 34:06.275 --> 34:12.242
 And about these men's willingness to sacrifice themselves for an idea.
 34:12.262 --> 34:14.544
 I mean, I think when you get back to,
 34:15.680 --> 34:24.984
 this revolution and the American experiment in a way that people are making big choices for an idea, whether it's fully lived out at the time or not.
 34:25.204 --> 34:31.806
 It's certainly this idea of religious freedom and an ability to speak what they feel is the truth.
 34:32.446 --> 34:35.768
 Tyndale and his friends were definitely willing to sacrifice everything for that.
 34:36.768 --> 34:38.189
 Right, right.
 34:38.329 --> 34:44.391
 Jonathan tells us that Thomas Hutchinson and John Singleton Copley are both buried in the same church as Archbishop Whitmore.
 34:47.275 --> 34:50.556
 Yeah, it's interesting.
 34:50.596 --> 34:57.678
 I mean, what you've really done is taken these stories that are very much intellectual, but made them into drama.
 34:58.478 --> 35:07.900
 And maybe that's just the way I think as someone who's had history, do this history in a certain way, but really show the human connection here and the choices people are making.
 35:08.320 --> 35:10.361
 And sometimes, you know, it is family.
 35:10.681 --> 35:11.821
 How do I earn a living?
 35:11.861 --> 35:15.542
 But more importantly, it also is this idea or something else.
 35:16.638 --> 35:17.098
 35:17.118 --> 35:21.500
 Yeah, I think that was definitely true with Fire on Earth.
 35:21.580 --> 35:30.784
 But I think all these historical pieces, there's that question of whose freedom matters in this case, and what is the idea behind it?
 35:30.804 --> 35:32.565
 I think that's true of Blood on the Snow.
 35:32.985 --> 35:33.926
 Do the rules matter?
 35:34.006 --> 35:34.886
 Does freedom matter?
 35:35.806 --> 35:37.027
 Who gets to make that choice?
 35:38.047 --> 35:42.369
 And what are you willing to sacrifice when you have to make that impossible decision?
 35:42.930 --> 35:45.411
 I think in Revolution's Edge,
 35:46.654 --> 36:02.497
 Pulling is making a decision that's going against – he's an Anglican, and he's choosing to go against the established Church of England to engage in this struggle.
 36:03.678 --> 36:06.918
 That is not a small idea to grapple with.
 36:07.058 --> 36:07.459
 That's true.
 36:07.639 --> 36:08.059
 That's true.
 36:08.179 --> 36:08.399
 I know.
 36:09.059 --> 36:13.420
 And in hindsight, we all think this would have been an easy choice, and we would have been on the right side, but –
 36:15.612 --> 36:16.973
 They didn't know what the right side was.
 36:17.433 --> 36:17.774
 36:17.794 --> 36:19.335
 I think that's so important.
 36:19.355 --> 36:26.920
 We always talk about at Plays and Plays about we're trying to unflatten history and make it clear that they just didn't know.
 36:27.080 --> 36:28.902
 They were just doing the best they could.
 36:30.703 --> 36:32.885
 Because I think we get into our contemporary moment.
 36:32.925 --> 36:34.626
 We feel like, oh, those guys had it so easy.
 36:34.646 --> 36:36.007
 It was easy to know what to do.
 36:36.027 --> 36:38.129
 I was like, no, they're just the same as us.
 36:39.209 --> 36:42.611
 they did not know what the moment was going to bring.
 36:42.651 --> 36:43.992
 Just like we don't right now.
 36:44.052 --> 36:47.854
 We're in a pretty tumultuous time, it feels like.
 36:48.494 --> 36:55.138
 When you're a historian, we've had a lot of historical tumult over time, for sure.
 36:56.439 --> 36:58.480
 But we look back and we say, oh, well, they knew what to do.
 36:58.500 --> 36:59.601
 It's like, yeah, not so much.
 37:00.561 --> 37:03.163
 They're grappling in the dark just as much as we are.
 37:03.703 --> 37:04.123
 37:04.143 --> 37:05.124
 Thank you.
 37:05.976 --> 37:10.337
 We've been talking with Patrick Gabridge, playwright, proprietor of Plays in Place.
 37:10.397 --> 37:12.437
 I mean, we could go on all day, Patrick.
 37:12.457 --> 37:16.098
 You have to get back to writing or redoing the house.
 37:16.478 --> 37:17.058
 All those things.
 37:17.578 --> 37:18.678
 Yeah, all those things.
 37:18.718 --> 37:24.939
 It's been great talking with you and look forward to seeing these plays again when they appear.
 37:25.139 --> 37:29.380
 And the Newgate one, the Newgate Prism one sounds terrific.
 37:29.440 --> 37:29.840
 I'm excited.
 37:29.880 --> 37:31.540
 I really hope we get the chance to do that one.
 37:31.700 --> 37:32.621
 Well, thank you so much for having me.
 37:32.641 --> 37:33.701
 It's been a great conversation.
 37:33.741 --> 37:34.501
 I look forward to more.
 37:35.600 --> 37:39.601
 Right, so do I. And I want to thank our many friends and listeners around the world.
 37:39.821 --> 37:42.963
 And every week I thank folks in different communities who are tuning in.
 37:43.023 --> 37:54.286
 And if you want to contact Jonathan Lane, jlane at, they'll send you one of our refrigerator magnets or lapel pins or something else to help stay in touch.
 37:54.686 --> 38:05.150
 So friends in Ridgeland, Mississippi, Acton, Massachusetts, Seattle, in Livingston, which is in West Loden in Scotland, as well as in Edinburgh in Scotland,
 38:05.606 --> 38:16.071
 santa fe texas and delhi and stroud boston and all places in between beyond thanks for joining us and now we will be piped out on the road to boss thank you