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East Carolina University’s School of Theatre and Dance will present the musical “1776” as part of its Loessin Playhouse 2016-2017 Season. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

DISCOVERING HISTORY

ECU Theatre to perform historical musical

Feb. 23, 2017,

By Sophronia Knott
ECU News Services

East Carolina University’s School of Theatre and Dance will present the musical “1776” as part of its Loessin Playhouse 2016-2017 Season.
 
The Tony Award-winning show details the American struggle for independence and follows founding fathers John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others during the second Continental Congress.

According to the school’s website, the audience will “see the men behind the national icons: proud, frightened, uncertain, irritable, charming, often petty and ultimately determined to do the right thing for a fledgling nation.”

ECU junior Donald Sutton plays the role of John Adams in the musical. Sutton started doing theatre in high school and has studied at the School of Theatre and Dance for three years.

“This has been the most tiring process I’ve ever been a part of,” said Sutton. “John Adams doesn’t get off stage too often in this show, so it requires mental focus and vocal stamina. The professors here have trained me and my peers to take care of ourselves and our instruments. This role has made me grow as an actor.”

The Tony Award-winning show details the American struggle for independence and follows founding fathers John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others.


Sutton says that although the musical is not always historically accurate, it does teach a valuable lesson. “Audiences will see that two opposing forces in politics have the potential to come together even after a great deal of turmoil and find a way to work as one for the good of the nation.”

“1776” has been both rewarding and challenging for Sutton. “One challenge is humanizing my role. Adams is passionate about gaining independence for his nation, and it often comes across as anger. The challenge comes in finding what motivates his passion,” he said. “The rewarding part has been discovering history again. This show has rekindled my love of reading about American history.”

Samantha Dempsey, a sophomore at ECU, is playing the role of Abigail Adams. She has been involved with theatrical productions since elementary school and was drawn to ECU for the theatre program, its faculty and students.

“For this show, we have a really great director and stage management crew that makes everything run smoothly,” she said. “We also have a few professors in the show, so it’s been very fun learning and working along side with them.”

Dempsey said playing a character from the 1700s has been interesting. “I have learned so much about the women of that time, how were treated and how much they were responsible for at home,” she said. “One of the challenges with this show was embodying how a person in that era would hold themselves, walk, place their hands and speak.”

“1776” has taught Dempsey personal lessons as well. “I have learned a lot from others, and I have learned how to take direction from different people,” she said. “I have also learned how to maintain my health while going to rehearsals everyday, especially since some rehearsals can go late into the night.”

Performances of “1776” will be held in McGinnis Theatre at 8 p.m. Feb. 23-25, at 2 p.m. Feb. 26, and at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 and 28. Tickets are $17.50 for the general public and $10 for ECU students and youth. Call 252-328-6829, email theatre@ecu.edu, or visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-cfac/theatredance/playhouse.cfm for more information.

Students work on preparing costumes for the upcoming production of "1776."

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