Love and Death

I recently wrote about “For the Love of Vermont,” an exhibit of more than 200 paintings from the Lyman Orton collection now on view at the Bennington Museum and the Southern Vermont Arts Center. I was writing for the Town of Bennington’s “Vermont Begins Here” site, and I touched it up for the Berkshire Edge:

Meanwhile, “Voices of the Fallen” came to the Bennington Battlefield on August 5 and 6 for six sold-out performances. Tom Hughes, one of our Vermont 250th Commissioners, who has seen many re=enactments and knows the Saratoga campaign, thought highly of it, which I find reassuring. I had not seen rehearsals or costumes. They were in the hands of Ingrid Madelayne, director, and Peter Schaaphok, producer and costumier. We all collaborated on the scripts. I took the lead in drafting some, Ingrid and Peter others, in the style of our “Voices from the Grave” show of two years ago, with one exception: Sipp Ives’s monologue is written (by me) in the style of “Hamilton” rap. Here’s the actor, Marquis Heath, who performed it:

To see all those resurrected soldiers in the outfits they would have died in at their acting stations on the hilltop was an arresting sight. They did a splendid job. Audiences seemed attentive.

The show was notable for having a Mohawk actor from Akwesasne on the U.S.-Canada border play the Mohawk chief who was killed at the first encounter of British and American forces two days before the main battle. This is was what I had envisioned from the first, and it came to pass. Finding and funding the right person was a process of many months of persistence on our part, with critical help from NY Parks. The upshot was that we had Steven Thomson perform the monologue that I had excerpted in large part from the 1805 speech of Sagoyewatha/Red Jacket on Native and English religion, which reviews the history of white settlement on Native lands. The script had had to pass muster with the New York Bureau of Historic Preservation (we were performing in a NY State Park); we got the green light only ten days before the show. Darren Bonaparte, Federal Historic Preservation Officer for the St. Regis (Mohawk) Nation, had already given it his approval in correspondence with me. All the care and effort was worth it. Here a few pictures:

The whole cast:

We are going to mount an indoor production in Bennington on the Bennington Theater stage for two shows on November 11, Veterans Day. The “Voices of the Grave” show worked well indoors. I have high hopes for “Voices of the Fallen.”

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