The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Directed by George A. Williams

The Adobe Theater’s first production of 2015 is The Night Thoreau Spent In Jail, by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (authors of “Inherit The Wind”; “Auntie Mame”; and “First Monday In October”). The play is based on Henry David Thoreau’s refusal to pay what he considered a ‘war tax’ for The Mexican-American War. Writing in the New York Times, theater critic Howard Taubman described the ideological relevance of the play to contemporary audiences by stating “this play and its protagonist, though they are of the 19th century, are speaking to today’s concerns: an unwanted war in another land, civil disobedience, the interdependence of man and nature, education, the role of government, and the governed.”

Director George A. Williams says: “The play was written in 1970, during the Vietnam war. I read it shortly after it was published, and I have wanted to direct it ever since. The play’s themes of individual integrity, adherence to an ideal, and civil disobedience resonated with me then as strongly as they do now – and seem as applicable now as they were then.”

In the play, Thoreau (Micah Linford) refuses to let the cell and bars become a prison. Unshackled in thought, he leaves the cell several times to interact with his brother John (Tim Riley), their mother (Patricia Thompson), the beautiful Ellen Sewell (Eleanor Smith), Deacon Nehemiah Ball (Stephen Zamora), some people of Concord, Massachusetts (Robert Landry, Andrea Hackett, Olga Anson), an escaped slave (Sunny Sampson), and the man who most influenced Henry’s life, the great Ralph Waldo Emerson (Clifton Chadwick), his wife Lydian (Sheridan Johnson), and their young son Edward (Trae Puckett). “When Henry decides to keep his mind in the cell,” Williams says, “he interacts with his reluctant jailer Sam Staples (Tom Monahan) and his cellmate, an illiterate man named Bailey (Marc Lynch).”

“What a great story,” Williams says, “and what a great cast.”

The Night Thoreau Spent In Jail, opens at The Adobe Theater on Friday, January 9th, 2015 and runs through February 1st, 2015.

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