Welcome to the fourth day of our Spring Fund Drive, Celebrating Virginia Theater. Only 3 more days to go!
Make today the day – the day you show your commitment to the arts in our community. Read on for some illuminating facts, suitable for use at cocktail parties & potlucks, about the nearly 350-year tradition of Theater in Virginia.

Did you know that Virginia planter, soldier & politician Robert Munford was America’s first comic playwright? His 1771 play, “The Candidates, or, The Humours of a Virginia Election”, the first American farce, is a satire about the conduct of elections in colonial Virginia based on his political career, during which he served on legislative committees with Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.

It is Thanks to YOU, our loyal supporters, that the Hamner Theater is alive and flourishing in Nelson County. We are your theater! We can continue to bring theater to you only through your continued generosity. Any amount you can give will help us to bring you more theater, more music, more adventure. No donation is too small…

Our Goal for this Spring Fund Drive is $20,000.
We are the grateful recipients of two $5000 donations. These donations came with a challenge – we need to raise double the amount, or $20,000. To put this in perspective, $20,000 is 1000 donations of $20.
$20 = a roll of gaffer tape (OR two movie tickets – as long as it is not 3D…)

Thanks To All Who Have Already Given!
Please accept our heartfelt thanks and know that it is only because of YOU that we are able to continue bringing you:

  • wonderful evenings of music and song

Did you attend last November’s Dance Night with the Dinah Pehrson Band? We are looking into an evening of flamenco, or swing, or of music with a barber shop quartet… Let us know – what would YOU like to hear/see next at the Hamner Cabaret?

How you can help to make our Spring Fund Drive, Celebrating Virginia Theater, a success by giving to the Hamner Theater.
Remember, if we were to survive on ticket price alone, we’d need to charge more than $100 per ticket to make our basic budget. But we are committed to keeping our ticket prices at $10, so that everyone can come. Do you support this idea? Theater is a vital part of any community and we hope when you think ‘theater’ you think Hamner!

Three easy ways to donate today:

  • Call 434.361.1999, or, use our contact form to make a pledge.
  • Download a donation form, and mail it to us at Hamner Theater, P.O. Box 106, Nellysford, Virginia 22958.
  • Donate via PayPal (no PayPal account required). Donate Button

The Hamner Theater is a non-profit 501(c)(3) project of the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nelson County, VA.
All donations to the Hamner Theater are tax-deductible.

Answers to Day 3 Questions

Famous Virginians, part 3: Nine presidents were born in Virginia, Woodrow Wilson (Staunton), William Henry Harrison (Charles City County), Thomas Jefferson (Shadwell), James Madison (Port Conway), James Monroe (Westmoreland), Zachary Taylor (Orange Cty), John Tyler (Charles City), George Washington (Westmoreland) and Benjamin Harrison, as were political leaders Henry Clay (Hanover Cty) and Patrick Henry (Hanover Cty).

Bonus Question
What do Gwendolyn Fairfax (from Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest) and the Hamner Theater have in common?
Both “intend to develop in many directions”.

Read on to find out interesting facts about Theater in Virginia.
Do you know why Virginia has been called the cradle of American theater (part 4)?

“In times like these, of war and danger, almost every man is suspicious even of his friend…”
(Mr Meanwell to Mr Trueman, The Patriots)

Virginia tobacco planter, officer in the Revolutionary War, and legislator in the House of Burgesses, Robert Munford (1737-1783), known as the first American comic dramatist, was a politician & soldier first, and writer second. As a boy, he studied in England, and during the French & Indian war (1755–1763), he served under George Washington. He practiced law, & served as a member of the House of Burgesses for the better part of 15 years, drawing on his own experience in Virginian politics to write two satires. As one of Virginia’s elected representatives to the First Virginian Convention, he was an active participant in the decisions that culminated in the Revolution. During his time in Williamsburg, and also in England, he would have had the opportunity to attend the Theater. Neither of his two plays was performed or published during his lifetime; his son published them in 1798, saying that he had ‘a warm desire to rescue the memory of a father from oblivion’.

Munford’s first play, The Candidates; or The Humours of a Virginia Election, a comedy in three acts, is set during an election campaign to the House of Burgesses. The candidates are Mr Woud’be, Mr Worthy, Mr Strutabout, Mr Smallhopes & Sir John Toddy. Ralpho, Candidate Woud’be’s servant, is notable as the first African American to be portrayed in American drama. Mr Woud’be is determined ‘never to ask a vote for myself, or receive one that is unduly obtained’, but the other candidates do not share his scruples, for example, upon request, Sir John Toddy promises ‘to get the price of rum lowered’. After much posturing, slapstick & amid much pouring of rum (which apparently is allowable even for Mr Woud’be), Mr. Wou’dbe and Mr. Worthy are elected.

Some quotes from the play:
Woud’be to Ralpho I find, in order to secure a seat in our august senate, ’tis necessary a man should either be a slave or a fool; a slave to the people, for the privilege of serving them, and a fool himself, for thus begging a troublesome and expensive employment.

Wou’dbe I’m sorry Mr. Guzzle, you are so ignorant of the necessary qualifications of a member of the House of Burgesses.
Guzzle Why, you old dog, I knew before Ralpho told me. To convince you, eating, drinking and sleeping, are three; sighting and lying are t’others

Lucy Guzzle If the wives were to vote, I believe they would make a better choice than their husbands.

The theme of Munford’s second play, The Patriots, written during the Revolutionary War, is loyalty and how to distinguish a patriot from a pretender, an obvious concern of the age. (It opens with the quote above, from Mr Meanwell to Mr Trueman.) The play condemns overzealous patriotic fervor in favor of quiet, determined action. “Munford himself was accused of being a Tory, in spite of his strong record in the assembly in favor of independence, and was therefore especially vehement in his condemnation of those who equated loudly proclaimed patriotic rhetoric with true patriotism.” (Meriah L. Crawford) It is true that, initially, Munford was a moderate – he was loyal to the king and against the War, but he protested taxation, and refused to recognize the absolute authority of Parliament; in his very first session in the House of Burgesses, he sided with the newly-elected Patrick Henry in opposition to the Stamp Act. As chairman of the committee for military preparedness, he was responsible for recruiting, training & equipping the militia. His credentials as a patriot are solid, even though, as a planter, he had much at stake at the prospect of losing Great Britain as a market for his tobacco, and indeed suffered from financial difficulties throughout his life.

Mr Meanwell, a gentleman accused of disloyalty: “I hope my zeal against tyranny will not be shewn by bawling against it, but by serving my country against her enemies; and never may I signalize my attachment to liberty by persecuting innocent men, only because they differ in opinion with me.”

Famous Virginians, part 5: How many writers can you name who were born in Virginia?

Bonus Question:
How is the Hamner Theater like Blanche DuBois?

Tune in tomorrow for more interesting information you can use to impress your friends…and for the answers to today’s questions.

If you know someone who might need help with cocktail conversation material, please forward this email to them. Thanks again.

Information & quotes from Robert Munford, Meriah L. Crawford & Kylie Looney.