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Old Opera House plays ‘The Anvil’

By Staff | Aug 28, 2009

As part of the 150th anniversary of the raid at Harpers Ferry by John Brown “The Anvil” by Julia Davis will be presented on Sept. 18, 19, 20 at the Jefferson County Court House, where the trial of John Brown took place 150 years ago.

The trial was held in the last week of October and the first week of November ended with the sentencing on Nov. 2, 1859.

The verdict and sentence were reported in the Nov. 5 edition of the Shepherdstown Register, “Sentence of death was passed on Capt. John Brown On Wednesday evening by Judge Richard Parker, and Friday the 2nd day of December next fixed for his execution.

Julia Davis, who wrote “The Anvil” was the daughter of the senator and Democratic nominee for president in 1924, John W. Davis. She was a well-known author and historian, Davis wrote the “The Anvil” in 1960 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. Miss Davis was a life long resident of Jefferson County.

The play will be held on the second floor courtroom. The original courtroom was downstairs was converted into offices in 1878 when the courthouse was partially rebuilt after the Civil War. The only part of the room that is left is the room in which the County Commission meets.

“The Anvil” is being directed by Bob Willgoos, a long time Professor of History at Shepherd University. Willgoos has directed the play once before and has also been associated with over 40 plays, movies and TV shows.

“I think ‘The Anvil’ is a very moving drama,” he said. “I think that it is something that everyone should see. … I think we have a very good group of people here equal to any that has been in the previous plays that they have had.” Willgoos’s wife and co-director Dr. Joyce Webb teaches communications at Shepherd and is the debate coach. She is the dialogue coach and is working with the actors on there characterization of their parts.

Among the cast from Shepherdstown is Tom Trumble, who plays Hiram Griswald an attorney from Boston who is defending John Brown; Joe Yates who is playing John Brown (This is the second time Yates has played Brown); Jerry Bayer and His wife Marianne Bayer are both playing parts in the play and are also producing the play. Jerry Bayer is playing the part of local attorney Thomas Green. his wife Marianne Bayer is playing the wife of John Brown, Mary Ann Brown.