The story of a rebellion in 1787 that terrified the 13 new nations of American to unite under one constitution... a rebellion used to today to justify carrying guns to government meetings by gun rights groups, private militias and even Timothy McVeigh on the day he bombed a federal government building in Oklahoma.
Only five years after the American colonies’ War of Independence against the British Empire, armed and indebted veterans and farmers hold the judges and courts of their new nation of Massachusetts at gunpoint. Their friend and leader before the war, Samuel Adams sends out the army of Massachusetts to shoot or arrest and hang them. Has Sam Adams, man of the people before the war, become the new oppressor?
Cast: 11 actors. (7 men - one African American, one Native America, 4 women - one mixed African-European American)
One Set. When covered wagons are circled for the night near a ramshackle tavern on their way into Indian Country, a worn but voluptuous tavern owner’s widow tells the story to the audience, as settlers gathered round a campfire. Settlers put on bits of costume to create character and bring out a few props and painted canvas to indicate location of each scene.
Development to date:
Developed in table readings and in several workshops with playwrights: Winter Miller (online at Playwrights Center, Minneapolis), Rogelio Martinez (Primary Stages ESPA), Arthur Giron(Ensemble Studio Theatre) and director Travis Preston and dramaturg Collette Brooks (Playwrights Horizons.)
Award: Winner, 2017 MOONDANCE International Film Festival for Stage Play
Synopsis: Sam’s Rabble by Tita Anntares
When the action begins, the audience sees a covered wagon drawn up for the night near a ramshackle tavern… a Native American tied by the neck to its wheel. A drunk in an old Continental Army Captain’s jacket guards the captive with a knife as he swigs rum. 1792 on a calendar on the tavern. The worn but seductive tavern owner’s widow, Jessica Havens, tells us she has seen many armed men pass through her ramshackle tavern in Sparta ,New York, charging off to kill for some reason or another – but this time she recognizes the drunken settler as Captain Daniel Shays. She invites the audience to gather around a campfire as she goads Shays and the other settlers to show why they are willing to risk death by arrow rather than stay in the democracy they fought a war to create.
The audience bears witness as Captain Shays and Sam Adams celebrate their independence from the British Empire as they meet at this tavern on their way home from the war… Then the growing post-war depression until, to protect his neighbors from being thrown into debtors’ prison, Shays leads armed veterans and farmers to close the courts in 1787… The uprisings trigger calls for an American monarch, inspire the empires of Europe to overcome their mutual hatreds and plan strategies for retaking the American colonies and preventing the seed of democracy from crossing the ocean…
…And man-of-the people Sam Adams, despite his wife Betsy’s warning, sends out the army of his new nation of Massachusetts to shoot or arrest and hang his friend Shays and his mob of indebted veterans. Sam refuses to give amnesty to Shays and others awaiting the hangman’s noose because their uprising has terrified the 13 new nations into uniting under one Constitution that does not even mention the rights that both Sam and Shays risked their lives to win - rights later tacked on at the end. In a dungeon, with a hangman’s noose ready, Shays, never afraid to take action, finds the power of words, challenging Sam to turn his words into action, with his own hands.
As their story ends, we are back with the settlers, their captive Native American and a final challenge, this time to their drunken Captain.
In France, a safe distance from the blood of the insurrection, Thomas Jefferson commented on the events of 1787: "From time to time, the Tree of Liberty must be replenished with the blood of patriots and tyrants" … a quote that today’s private militias cite to justify armed resistance to an elected government… a quote printed on the T-shirt worn by Timothy McVeigh in 1995 when he murdered his fellow Americans in a government building in Oklahoma. But after our plunge into the actual events and people of “Shays Rebellion” we can not easily distinguish the patriots from the tyrants.... if any.
Cast: 10 (7 men, 3 women); Unit Set as settlers moving West re-enact their story; Script: 106 ppsDeveloped in 6-14 week workshops (with table readings/revisions) led by playwrights Winter Miller (Playwrights Center), Rogelio Martinez (Primary Stages ESPA), Arthur Giron (E.S.T.) and directors Anne Bogart and Travis Preston (Playwrights Horizons)h here.