Inspiring participation in public affairs
in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson’s life, thought, and ideals.

Jefferson & Adams
a play by Howard Ginsberg

"I am an enthusiast on the subject of the arts. But it is an enthusiasm of which I am not ashamed, as its object is to improve the taste of my countrymen, to increase their reputation, to reconcile to them the respect of the world, and procure them its praise."
—Thomas Jefferson

The United States is facing its most challenging tests at this time. We are asking ourselves what we stand for, where our national character is rooted, what we aspire to perpetuate and preserve.  Jefferson & Adams, Howard Ginsberg's three-character stage play, provides two hours of thought-provoking and stimulating awareness of America as a nation and America as a people. 

The Jefferson Legacy Foundation is seeking significant funding to bring the play to a wider audience through grants, private contributions, and corporate sponsorship.  Specific venues are still to be determined but will include historic and restored theaters throughout the country.  We believe Jefferson & Adams is an extraordinary vehicle with which to further our mission and will play a significant role. The play will assume a significant role as part of the JLF's outreach programs to encourage civic responsibility, through the inspiring example of the two great minds of American independence. 

THE PLAY

Jefferson & Adams tells the story of the turbulent 50-year friendship through the correspondence of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Abigail Adams. The play focuses on both the intersections and divergences in their lives and beliefs from their work together at the Continental Congress until the year of their deaths. In a remarkable coincidence, both men died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The story is constructed from the voluminous correspondence between these two statesmen, discussing the events that shaped the new nation and the world as well as revealing the serious political disagreements that almost destroyed their friendship.  Adams's perceptive and articulate wife Abigail is the third character in the play.   Excerpts from the letters are woven into a compelling script, full of rich, poignant, and prophetic language indicative of the characters' keen intellect, strong convictions, dedication to their country, and devotion to their wives and families.  The heart-felt dialogue reveals the essence and vicissitudes of the characters and communicates the spirit of the time and the enormously pivotal events that shaped American, world, and human history. 

In 1995, Jefferson & Adams was produced by the Leatherstocking Theater Company in Cooperstown, New York to mark the reopening of historic Hyde Hall, running for twelve performances to sold-out audiences.  In July 2000, the play was performed for a week at the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown. It has also been performed as a staged reading in Sarasota and Boca Raton, Florida; New York; London; and at the Adams Home in Quincy, Massachusetts. A radio adaptation of the play was produced by KPFA in Berkeley, California and is regularly broadcast on the Fourth of July.

The Jefferson Legacy Foundation first co-produced Jefferson & Adams at the Kimball Theatre in Colonial Williamsburg as a costumed reading in October 2001.  It traveled there once again for three performances as a full production in July 2002. Subsequently, it played to sold-out performances at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury, Vermont in August 2002.  (See further description following.) 
Contact us for information regarding future performances.

Jefferson & Adams is an important play. Historically sound, it fulfills the dramatic function demanded by good theater. Beyond that, however, it is unusually timely. The comparison between the significance of the election of 1800 and its overtones in the election of 2000 comes naturally to mind, as well as responses to terrorists then and now and issues of freedom, individual liberties, personal restraint, and societal restrictions.  In addition, interest has been fueled by JLF Board Director Emeritus David McCullough's best-selling Pulitzer Prize-winning recent biography of John Adams.

It is a tall order to reach all the people who should see this important play. People will come away from the experience with a better understanding of what our founders had in mind for this country and the world. Most gratifying of all has been countless enthusiastic pronouncements by people of all ages, saying how the play has inspired them to believe that a small number of committed individuals can really make a difference in this world. They are motivated to participate by the dramatically presented knowledge that a few dedicated individuals operating under precarious conditions created was has become the most powerful nation on the planet — a beacon of liberty.

THE PLAYWRIGHT

Howard Ginsberg has written fifteen other plays, including Murder in Paris, which was broadcast by BBC Radio in 1998 and starred Alan Bates. It had its world premiere theatre production at The Haymarket Theatre in Basingstoke (near London) January 2002 and then transferred to Theatre Royal Windsor.  A subsequent tour is pending. Henri Matisse is the subject of two other plays, The Red Nude and My MatisseMy Matisse was produced in the summer 2002 at Edinburgh and an international tour is pending for 2003.  His newest play, The 5th Duchess, is being developed as a large-scale musical.

THE DIRECTOR

Douglas Anderson taught on theater faculties for 14 years (Amherst College, Middlebury College) before leaving the academy to work full-time as a writer and theater director.  Recently, he directed a workshop of a new musical, 90 NORTH, at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, for the Disney/ASCAP new works series.  His writing for television includes several series for the Children's Television Workshop (which included an Emmy nomination) and a stint as head writer of the long-running CBS day-time drama Guiding Light.  He is currently Executive Director of Town Hall Theater, Inc., which has purchased an 1883 theater in the heart of Middlebury, Vermont. The building is being restored and renovated, and it will eventually re-open as a performing arts center.

THE PLAYERS

Bill Barker, who has portrayed Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg since 1993 and has also appeared in Philadelphia and at The White House as well as numerous other venues, is known the world over. He brings his erudition and devotion to a sparklingly elegant and refined performance. He is Thomas Jefferson: speech, demeanor, manner, and style.

Sam Goodyear first performed the role of John Adams in the 1995 premiere production of Jefferson & Adams with the Leatherstocking Theatre Company in Cooperstown, New York. He becomes the short and rotund antithesis to the lean and elegant Jefferson, speaking a New England American English that echoes directly from early Colonial days.  In November 2001, Sam performed in a staged reading of Jefferson & Adams at the Century Association in New York City, with Sam Waterston as Jefferson and Jane Alexander as Abigail Adams.  Once again, it was a sold-out performance (more than 600 in the audience), this time to an audience whose membership in the club denotes their contributions to the Arts and Letters. 

Abigail Schumann was a company member of Colonial Williamsburg's 18th-century play series for more than 10 years.  The role of Abigail Adams is crucial to the understanding of the extraordinary force that this exceptional woman exerted on her husband and on Jefferson as well.  She plays the role of Abigail Adams with a playfulness and feminine strength that provides a neatly contrapuntal perspective to the production. 

JLF Productions of Jefferson & Adams
at the Kimball Theatre, Colonial Williamsburg
October 2001 and July 2002

The Jefferson Legacy Foundation (JLF) co-produced Jefferson & Adams in October 2001 as a costumed reading at the beautiful newly restored 400-seat Kimball Theatre in Colonial Williamsburg.  The two performances sold out and received standing ovations.  It was an historic event for the JLF — and for Colonial Williamsburg as well, as it was the first performance to play at the Kimball since its reopening in September.  It was an inspired — and inspiring — venue. We returned to the Kimball in July 2002 for three performances before more than 1,000 people, again receiving standing ovations.

The co-production of Jefferson & Adams at the Kimball is the JLF's latest collaboration with Colonial Williamsburg, which also includes the multimedia web site presentation: 
Thomas Jefferson:  Man of the Millennium.

The JLF Production of Jefferson & Adams
at the Town Hall Theater, Middlebury, Vermont
August 2002

The Jefferson Legacy Foundation was delighted to bring a production of Jefferson & Adams to Middlebury.  With both shows sold out a week before the performances, we were extremely gratified by the interest and enthusiasm that greeted the production, including three curtain calls on opening night.  The Town Hall Theater provided a wonderfully intimate setting for actors and audience alike.  Here is just one comment from audience members: "We enjoyed Jefferson & Adams enormously. Even in the best of times it is a delight to be reminded of the humanity and wisdom of our founding fathers (and of Abigail Adams, who should be designated a founding mother!), and of the friendship that existed between two of the most eminent of them, in spite of their conflicts and differences. In today's difficult times, the pure light of their Enlightenment wisdom is all the more to be cherished and portrayals such as this very much to be desired."

Contact us for more information.


No age will come in which the American Revolution will appear less than what it was — one of the greatest events in human history. No age will come in which it will cease to be seen and felt on every continent that a mighty step, a great advance not only in American affairs — but in human affairs.

No two men now live, perhaps it may be doubted whether any two men have ever lived, who have impressed more on mankind their own philosophies of politics and government.

— Daniel Webster at Faneuil Hall, Boston, in commemoration of the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on the same day, July 4, 1826. 
 

The Jefferson Legacy Foundation
Town Office Building, P.O. Box 76
Ripton, Vermont 05766
E-mail:
info@jeffersonlegacy.org
Phone 802-388-7676 Fax: 802-388-1776

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Jamie Wyeth.
 Used with permission of the artist. Copyright © Jamie Wyeth