Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hoping to Convince Colonial Williamsburg to Reinstate the Playbooth Theater and Actors

One of my family's favorite vacation destinations, as many know, has been Colonial Williamsburg, where we can leave behind the 21st century to enter the 18th century cultural experience of food, music, theater, revolution, gardening, art, politics, trades, livestock...and more. One of my family's favorite activities has been terminated today...namely the Playbooth Theater program and the 4 wonderful actors who incredibly brought the merriment of 18th century theater to life.

This was not a Playbooth Theater program, but he was one of the Playbooth Theater Players. When they weren't on stage they'd often be found on the streets entertaining guests, and he was often playing his fife. On this fine day, he joined my son in a bit of fife playing. My son is self-taught and fife playing is a hobby. This quite unexpected experience was definitely a special memory proving that Colonial Williamsburg is indeed, a living history museum. You never know what is going to happen, because the interpreters are so excellent at their craft, that they can entertain guests at the spur of the moment without a script! Definitely impromptu!  

Here he is in one of many Playbooth Theater presentations that is scripted! In fact, this is a popular play that was often performed in the 18th century. I don't remember what this particular one was. One of the many things I loved about the Playbooth Theater is that they had a grand repertoire of popular plays and readings from Shakespeare to David Garrick to Cato and everyother other known playwrite of the time. One never knew which pieces they'd put together for a particular program each day. Also they strongly encouraged and expected us to act like a noisy 18th century audience yelling, "boo," "hiss," "huzzah," even "encore!" The best ones were the encores, where they would truly repeat any scene we'd yell encore for! Even two or three times!   

Here he is dressed in a most silly sort of style as a fop! Whenever we engaged with him off stage, we always talked about fascinating historical subjects. Whatever we happened to mention, he'd smile and say, "Oh I was just reading about that..." and then he'd discourse in great depth about the correlation between ______________ and theater and politics of the time or whatever.  One time the key component was about coinage! Many times I went to the Actor's Trunk program to specifically ask him questions about different types of dramatic movements throughout the course of history to help us in various homeschool history presentations. He was a wealth of information! He'd even often discourse great dramas that we  had recently read in our literature studies with my daughter!

This grand gent always called my son "general" since my son often wore his Lafayette coat in the winter! Whenever he saw us he always asked about us!

She was wonderful and always gave us much information, even as we slowly walked upon a very hot and very sunny summery street.

Oh and he always made us laugh! Not only that, we learned a great deal about the history of theater throughout the colonies in greater detail than usual from him. I had asked about it during an audience warm-up before one of the Playbooth Theater programs began. This might seem to be an odd question to most CW guests, but this was prompted by a history book that fell into my lap which said that early American colonists had no interest in music or theater. Well I knew that was wrong so I had to share that piece of information with the Playbooth Theater Players! I was told to burn the book! Most gladly, sire! lol  

Don't their expressions say it all? =)

Here are a few posts I have written about their wonderful work over the years that we have enjoyed and how it has influenced us and our homeschool:

The Taming of the Shrew

The Playbooth Theater and Rehearsal

The Actors' Trunk

Greek Masks

Discussing Cato

Commedia dell'Arte

Fops, Rogues, and Villains

18th Century Theater, Music, and Dance in Virginia and the Colonies

Sadly, we don't get to attend CW as often as we used to. My kids are now in college which limits our visits. However we continue to be huge fans of all those who bring history to life in the historic area and we do come when we can. To lose the Playbooth Theater is to rip out a vibrant part of the living history museum known as Colonial Williamsburg.  Also these actors have so woven themselves into our lives, into our beings, into our homeschool, that they have made us feel like family, although in truth we only know each other as guests and interpreters. Yet they have always warmly received us, merrily engaged us,  and poignantly worked their way into our hearts through what they did best...act in a most proper 18th century way. How can we return cheerfully, knowing that a gaping hole has been left in the 18th century CW offerings? CW won't be as lively as it once was.    

If you are also one of the many fans of the Playbooth Theater, many of us are signing a petition:

Additionally I am sure that a letter to the president is warranted.

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