The Anvil to hit the stage
History will come alive on Sept. 20, when members of the local community re-tell the events of Johns Brown famous trial in the play “the Anvil,” by Julia Davis.
Set in the trial’s real-life location at the Jefferson County Courthouse,
the cast and crew hope to transport audiences back in time.
According to Shepherdstown resident Joe Yates, who serves as director and the play’s John Brown, “the Anvil”, is comprised of dialogue straight form the trial’s historical transcripts, and theatrical storytelling.
“The play takes a great deal of the dialogue directly form the transcript of the trial,” he said.
But he said it also introduces the audience to a host of characters who provide a deeper context to Brown’s life and the history surrounding the trial.
“It’s more than just a reenactment,” he said.
For Yates’s fourth time directing the play as part of the Charles Town Heritage Festival, he said many of the cast have returned from years prior.
Composed of residents from all over Jefferson County, Yates chose a cast to “fit the role.”
Picking “regular people,” to take on the historical parts, Yates said he didn’t simply look for actors.
“It’s very compelling… If you can convince people to relax and be natural, it makes it more real.”
“I tell them. ‘Just be yourself. Be natural.'” he said.
First time cast member and Shepherdstown resident Jim Schmitt discussed his enthusiasm for the new experience.
“I’m really impressed with the monumental history lesson that I’m learning performing amongst the cast of characters,” he said.
Former state Del. John Doyle also joined the cast for the first time this year, playing train conductor Phelps.
Doyle called the play’s subject matter “a wonderful piece of history.”
“It’s just one reminder of how rich in history Jefferson County is,” he said.
Doug Craze returned for a second time to play John Avis, John Brown’s jailer.
“It’s a thrill and an honor to re-create an actual event,” he said of the play.
“The words that are being spoken are embedded in the walls of the courthouse,” he went on to say about the play’s “intense,” dialogue and atmosphere.
James Eros, who will play “the minister,” is a former mid-westerner who said he has been impressed with the local commitment to portions of history he had never before been exposed to.
“It’s really a different notion to a relationship with American history,” he said of the play.
The Anvil is being performed as part of the Charles Town Heritage Festival which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 20 in downtown Charles Town.
Eros said that the play also offered its cast and crew a special opportunity to create something together.
“It’s a really interesting way to get involved with other people in your community,” he said.
The play will be performed over three days, beginning Friday Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m., and continuing Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 22 at 3 p.m.
The Jefferson County Courthouse is located at 100 East Washington St. in Charles Town.
For reservations contact 304-676-8059 or email AnvilTickets@gmail.com. Tickets are $15 each or $10 for those over 60 and under 20.