John Henry can’t move the stones in the amphitheater he built in Flint Hill, but his latest play produced by the Stone Hill Theatrical Foundation will have an out-of-town encore on Nov. 7, Election Day, at the U.S. Capitol of all places. Given the play’s subject and title — “Republic for Which We Stand” — the venue couldn’t be more appropriate. In an interview with the newspaper’s Walter Nicklin, Henry shares his thoughts on the play’s timeliness.
How did a performance at the U.S. Capitol happen?
First, I want to acknowledge the generous grant that Stone Hill has received from RAAC. As for the U.S. Capitol performance, it wasn’t easy. There were a lot of hurdles. To perform in the Congressional Auditorium at the new Capitol Visitor’s Center, a representative or senator must reserve the space. In addition, the play must be related to pending legislation.
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) has introduced a House Resolution drafted by the Committee for the Republic, of which I’m a founding board member. The resolution defines a presidential war as an impeachable offense. President Trump is currently running nine unconstitutional wars he inherited from previous administrations.
So your play is about today’s “presidential wars?” I thought it was a history play?
The Greeks invented theater as a way to explore issues facing their citizens and their state. By contrast, entertainment seems to be the primary goal of modern theater. I founded the Stone Hill Theatrical Foundation to promote plays with a healthy balance of instruction and entertainment.
“Republic For Which We Stand” is set in the drawing room of Ben Franklin’s Philadelphia home on the eve of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. I speak through the characters of Martha and George Washington, Dolly and James Madison, and Sarah and George Mason. As was typical drawing-room entertainment at the time — called closet drama — George Washington commissions three mini-plays to be performed as plays within a play.
What is the primary take-away you hope congressmen and others will learn from your play?
The architects of the Constitution rejected limitless presidential power to wage war. For the first and only time in history, the war power was entrusted to the legislature. That’s what made the American Republic ultra-exceptional! In 227 years, Congress has declared war only five times in response to actual or perceived aggression against the United States.
Share, if you will, the names of all the Rappahannock residents with roles in the play.
Father Tuck Grinnell, Bill Walton, Hugh Hill, Pat Nicklin, Maeve Ciuba, Deverell Pedersen, Peter Stenner, Howard Coon, Bob Hurley and Lynn Sullivan.
All Rappahannock readers are invited to attend the U.S. Capitol performance. Admission is free. More information on Stone Hill and the Committee for the Republic can be found at: stonehilltheatricalfoundation.org and committeefortherepublic.us. People can also register for free tickets to the U.S. Capitol performance at http://republicforwhichwestand.eventbrite.com/