"The Rivalry" by Norman Corwin will be performed at the St. Agnes Chapel for three weekends in May, beginning on Friday the May 11. Shows will run each Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through May 27.
The play brings to life the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858; a time in history when the divisions in this country were so deep as to bring neighbors to war.
Joe Yates, who directs the play and plays the role of Steven Douglas, says, "As you hear the political dialogue of 1858, you may hear a similar tone as to where we stand today. As the nation listened, Douglas fought for the rights of the separate states to make their own choice on the question of slavery.
Emily Wanger Romine and Joe Yates rehearse for the upcoming production of ‘The Rivalry,’ scheduled each weekend from May 12 to 27.
"Abraham Lincoln argued for equality of human beings and the conviction that the nation could not endure half slave, half free. Mrs. Douglas, who accompanied her husband on the tour, serves as both performer and narrator of the play. It is she who puts the play and the time in perspective. It is she who sees that the greatness of America is the promise of freedom and equality for all people."
Homer Speaker, an experienced local actor and attorney with the public defender's office, plays the role of Lincoln. And Emily Wanger Romine, the Artistic Director of the Shepherdstown School of Dance, will play the role of Adele Douglas.
Yates has an extensive background in theater going back some 30 years, including five years of study and performance in New York City, as a founding member of the Mint Theater Company and Sleeping Dog Productions. He and his wife Beth live in Shepherdstown, raising their four children, Samantha, Sydney, Richard and Alexander. For the past 15 years, he has been a commercial real estate appraiser with the national consulting firm of Joseph J. Blake and Associates, Inc., at the Mid-Atlantic office located in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Yates is an active volunteer at Shepherdstown Elementary and Shepherdstown Middle School; is a member of the Board of Directors and volunteer soccer coach with the Jefferson County Youth Soccer League; and is an active member of St. Agnes Catholic Church in Shepherdstown.
Recent directing credits include "Polter-Heist" at the Shepherdstown Community Center; "The Rivalry" by Norman Corwin and "John Brown's Body" produced by the Harpers Ferry Foundation and the Town of Harpers Ferry; the Shepherd University Department of Music productions of "The Tender Land," "Guys and Dolls," "The Mikado," "Orfeo ed Euridice," "The Secret Garden," and "The Pirates of Penzance." From 2007 to 2009, Joe was an adjunct professor in the Music Department at Shepherd University, teaching acting.
Speaker made his first community theater (or any theater for that matter) appearance in Martinsburg in the Apollo Theater's 2002 production of Twelve Angry Men. Since then he has appeared in numerous productions at the Apollo, the Old Opera House in Charles Town and The Full Circle Theater in Shepherdstown.
He has also twice appeared with Joe Yates in The Anvil, the story of the trial of John Brown, a play performed in the courthouse in which Brown was tried. His experience in shows covers a wide range, from Shakespeare to British farces to traditional American Christmas plays.
He is a criminal defense attorney by trade and sees trial work as another form of theater, although the stakes are usually a bit higher than missing or forgetting a line or two.
Speaker is particularly excited about The Rivalry and the opportunity to recreate such a pivotal moment in American history.
However, he is also troubled by the fact that it is clear when one listens to the word of these debates, we really haven't learned much since 1858.
We are still a nation divided, a nation of intolerance.
Emily Wanger Romine is excited to be making her acting debut in The Rivalry. She is co-owner, and Artistic Director, of Shepherdstown School of Dance, which presents two performances per year (The Nutcracker and an annual Spring Performance).
Though she has been dancing on stage since age nine, this will be her first experience on stage with the spoken word. Some of her favorite ballet roles have been Clara and Sugar Plum in The Nutcracker, as well as Terpsichore in Apollo, and the Liberty Bell in Stars and Stripes.
Ticket prices are $15 for adults while the cost for students and teachers (with ID) is $5. For reservations, call 304-876-0847; or email to ShepTownRivalry@Gmail.