In October 1859, the news reporters of the nation descended upon the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town (then within the borders of Virginia). John Brown was about to go on trial for his raid on the armory in Harpers Ferry. Following his arrest and incarceration in the jail across the street from the courthouse, Brown was called variously a terrorist, liberator, American hero, despised villain — and his trial captured the attention of a country that was struggling to reconcile the political forces that were pulling it apart over the question of slavery.
During two weekends in October, a contingent of local residents will be performing “The Anvil,” a play written by Julia Davis that presents a dramatic synthesis of these 1859 events. The play will take place at the site of the trial inside of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town. The play will take the audience through the actual trial and inside Brown’s jail cell, where he argues that slavery is “contrary to the teachings of Christ!” but that his own deadly actions are “wielding the Sword of the Spirit.” The audience will meet Brown’s wife Mary, mother of 13 of his 20 children, as well as Mahala Doyle, the woman whose husband and two sons were “murdered in my hearing” during an attack led by Brown during “Bleeding Kansas.”
The play is produced and directed by Joe Yates of Shepherdstown and includes a large cast of Jefferson and Berkeley County residents. Costumes have been designed and created by Susie Sayre. Art Wermers is the Technical Director. The cast includes Sandy Andrews, Katherine Bonner, Leo Bonner, Charles Devine, John Doyle, James Eros, John Griffith, David Hammer, Daniel Hayes, D. Frank Hill III, David Hippchen, Michael Hippchen, Thomas Ruhf, Matthew Ryan, Jim Schmitt, Jack Shaw, Stacey Shaw, Homer Speaker, John Spears, Emily Wanger, Charity Ward, Joe Yates, and Richard Yates.
Performances will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 6, 7, 8 and 13, 14, 15. For the Friday and Saturday shows, doors open at 7:00 pm and the show begins at 8:00 pm. For the Sunday shows, doors open at 1:00 pm and the show begins at 2:00 pm. Seating is limited. Reservations are encouraged, and can be made by texting the date, name and number of tickets to 304-676-8059, or by emailing AnvilTickets@gmail.com. Tickets are $15; $10 for youth (under 20) or seniors (over 60).By Staff Contributor