"There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free— If we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending— If we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight!" - Patrick Henry, 1775
THE GUNPOWDER INCIDENT is an adventure theater piece set in April, 1775, scheduled to open in April 2019 in Colonial Williamsburg.
A young Patriot named Richard tells the gathering crowd of Lord Dunmore’s recent actions, removing the city’s munitions from the Williamsburg Magazine to protect Virginia from an impending slave rebellion. Richard says the governor’s claims are false — that Dunmore stole their arms and gunpowder to prevent a potential local Patriot uprising against the occupying Redcoats. Peyton Randolph, Speaker for The House of Burgesses, raises his voice from within the crowd, attempting to convince everyone to trust the governor’s judgment and not revolt. Randolph believes that violence can be avoided negotiating by diplomatic means. Randolph’s slave, Peter, stands beside him, taking in the scene in which it seems he is being used as a pawn. Richard confronts Randolph, demanding the crowd wait for the arrival of Patrick Henry, a fellow Burgess. Henry arrives on horseback in coarse frontier clothes after a long ride, and delivers a rousing speech, demanding that the time has come to take arms against injustice and that The Crown’s tyranny can no longer be tolerated. He leads the crowd to the Williamsburg Magazine to confront Dunmore and his marines.
Muskets in hand, the crowd arrives just in time to witness British troops removing the last barrel of gun powder from The Magazine. Patrick Henry demands they stop in the name of the name of the Commonwealth of Virginia. British Lieutenant Henry Collins fires a warning shot into the air. Lord Dunmore appears and orders the angry gathered crowd to disperse. Patrick Henry demands they hold their ground, their guns trained on the soldiers. His back against the wall, Lord Dunmore proclaims he will free any slave that joins the British in taking arms against a Patriot rebellion.
Conflicted, Peter leaves his master’s side and disappears into the tense chaos. The crowd holds their position as Patrick Henry demands the munitions are returned immediately. Peyton Randolph suggests their needs would be met if the arms and gunpowder were paid for in full by the British. After several heated exchanges and dramatic threats from each side, Dunmore finally concedes and offers the angry crowd payment of £330 for the seized munitions. Patrick Henry accepts his offer. The crowd rejoices over their victory/the British concession and heads to the tavern to celebrate!
Trading his musket for a fiddle, Henry leads the crowd in a stirring rendition of “The Liberty Song” with other patrons in the tavern playing the guitar and the drum. The charming tavern keeper, Josiah and his wife ply the crowd with ale, cider and rum, stoking the energy in the tavern to a frenzy, celebrating the recent victory and anticipating the bigger conflict to gain independence on the horizon. The Chownings sing funny parodies mocking Henry’s “Liberty Song” to entertain their guests. Their beautiful young daughter Lucy sings “Virginia Banishing Tea”, to inspire the crowd to reject Britain’s old traditions/shackles and embrace a new identity as independent Americans. Inspired by her passion, Henry picks up his fiddle an sings a duet of “Hearts Of Oak” with her in beautiful harmony. The band plays on as the crowd drinks and celebrates with Josiah and his family into the evening! All is well in Williamsburg, at least for the time being.