On Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 20 and 21, 2012, the people who created West Virginia will "come to life" at Shepherd University's Frank Art Center Theater -- in a free, family-friendly Living History drama titled "A New Home for Liberty: Human Rights, Slavery, and the Creation of West Virginia."
Delegate John Doyle will portray the chairman of the 1861-63 Wheeling Convention, where the new State of West Virginia was launched in the middle of the Civil War. The community cast includes Circuit Judge David Sanders, County Commissioner Dale Manuel, Magistrates Bill Senseney and Gail Boober and former Delegate and Minority Leader Charles S. Trump.
"A New Home for Liberty" tells the story of West Virginia's creation through the lives of two historic characters: Granville Hall (1837-1933) of Harrison County, who served as West Virginia's second Secretary of State; and J.R. Clifford (1848-1933), West Virginia's first African American attorney. Clifford, a Civil War veteran, is a celebrated resident of Martinsburg.
The Oct. 20 performance begins at 8:15 p.m, and the Oct. 21 matinee starts at 3:15 p.m. Each performance lasts an hour and fifteen minutes and will be followed by a short public reception. Admission is free, but seating is limited and reservations are strongly recommended. To reserve tickets, go to www.jrcifford.org or call 304-345-7663. Reserved tickets may be picked up at the theater beginning two hours before show time; tickets not claimed by 15 minutes before show time will be released.
On Sunday, Oct. 21, at 2 p.m., there will be a free pre-show panel discussion and question session with history experts. The Sunday pre-show panel will include the historians John Stealey, Emeritus Shepherd University Professor; John Alexander Williams; and Hari Jones, curator of the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, D.C.
Joe Yates is directing the performances. The cast also includes Dr. Taylor J. Perry, Senator John Unger, West Virginia Supreme Court Senior Justice Larry Starcher, Danny Staggers, Helen Harris, Jim Surkamp, Dave Hammer, Effie Kallas, Mike and Maria Lorenso, Bryan and Kim Crockett, D. Frank Hill III, Homer Speaker, Emily Wanger Romine, Jack Shaw, Viola Johnson, Trevor Rowland, Tony Russo, and Samantha Yates. Local hosts for the programs include George Rutherford, William and Charlotte Norris, Jim and Claire Eros, and Leonard Harris.
Singers from local church choirs will portray the Hutchinson Family, a nineteenth-century abolitionist singing group; and will present African American spirituals of the Civil War era. Other historic characters in the program include United States President Abraham Lincoln and Charles Town native Major Martin Delaney, a legendary African American Civil War soldier.
The October 2012 Eastern Panhandle performances are part of the J.R. Clifford Project's West Virginia Sesquicentennial Celebration initiative. Justice Larry Starcher is the J. R. Clifford Project's Honorary Chair; Tom Rodd, who co-chairs the Project with Charleston attorney Kitty Dooley, is the author of "A New Home for Liberty."
Rodd said: "Thousands of brave Mountaineers, black and white, slave and free, risked their lives and fortunes to create the State of West Virginia. 'A New Home for Liberty' tells how they added West Virginia's star to 'Old Glory' -- as the Civil War raged around them. This show played to overflow crowds and rave reviews in Morgantown and Charleston, and we are excited to bring it to the Eastern Panhandle. People of all ages will learn amazing things about West Virginia that they never knew before. We guarantee a good time mark your calendars and reserve your seats now -- and come one, come all!"
The Shepherdstown 250, AT&T Corporation, the Appalachian Community Fund, the Mountain State Bar, the West Virginia Civil War and Statehood Sesquicentennial Commission, the Pyles & Turner Foundation and a wide range of local groups, businesses, and individuals are helping cover the costs of production. Other supporters of the J.R. Clifford Project's West Virginia Sesquicentennial Programs include the West Virginia Humanities Council, West Virginia Bar Foundation, Chesapeake Energy, and the Mountain State Bar Association.