The Sharon | Events - The Villages Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center

Content Advisory: Adult Content

The Gospel of John B.
by Bobbie Bell

May 14th, 2021


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Join us for Scripts from Scratch, four plays in two days! Audiences have the unique opportunity to hear a fresh new script, never before produced and partake in its evolution! After the script is read by performers to the audience, a special Questions and Answers session with the playwright will be moderated. Audiences are invited to share their thoughts and feedback about the new work to the playwright.

On the late night hours on the evening before John Brown's execution on December 1st, 1859, John Wilkes Booth has bribed his way into the cell to confront the man whose beliefs he despises but whose actions he admires. Unsure whether he should kill Brown or whether the old man has some secret of mastering a "great act," Booth and Brown wage ideological fencing matches covering topics as wide as the frivolous art of theatre to the justification for terrorism. By the night's end the two enemies discover a common bond and Booth discovers the inspiration he came seeking for his own "great act." The historical record of the play is thus: we know that Brown was the first American citizen to be given the contemporaneous title of "terrorist" for his murder of proslavery settlers in Pottawatomie in Bleeding Kansas and his plot to break the back of slavery in Virginia with his terrorist assault at Harper's Ferry. We know that Booth at the start of his professional acting career, walked out of a professional production of the play The Toodles to enlist in the Richmond Virginia Greys, who were dispatched to Charles Town, Virginia for the express purpose of guarding Brown and his co-conspirators and to guard the gallows on the day of the execution. Booth himself was clear that he was going to see Brown a man whose beliefs he despised but whom Booth called: "a brave old man." He also said: "John Brown was a man inspired, the grandest character of the century." Booth stood next to the gallows in military formation and had a "front row seat" for Brown's "great act." Booth's "great act" was to surpass Brown and become America's first presidential assassin. Current research on the anniversary of the Civil War indicates that neither man was the lunatic or crazed zealot that previous histories have supposed. Both men planned their acts for years and were reported to be calm, cool, courageous, and focused on those acts: Brown convinced that God had appointed him to be the catalyst to end slavery, Booth motived by patriotism for his country sought to change the history of his country by cutting off the head of the Union administration. That is the historical record. Although Brown had hundreds of visitors during his captivity, there is no record that Booth was one of them. The discussion that might have taken place between these two early terrorists is gleaned from their biographies, letters, and diaries.

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