|Brandon Bruce, Colonial Williamsburg|
On a recent visit to Colonial Williamsburg, Cynthia Howerter and I literally stumbled upon the set for Revolutionary City. I love these dramas that take place during prime season in Williamsburg but I'd never before come upon a rehearsal (that I know of!) But it was a providential time for us to arrive because we got to speak with Brandon Bruce, the director, whose official title is Senior Manager Performance Interpretation for the Revolutionary City Programs with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Brandon explained to us about the upcoming season, which is brand new programming and I will see if I can interpret how I understood this works. Having attended many of the performances of Revolutionary City over the past years since they started it, mainly what you have happening are scenes of real life scenarios dramatized and they change out daily. So you may have a scene taking place where villagers are calling for the tarring and feathering of a Loyalist, for instance, followed by the entourage of actors and tourists AKA guests relocating to another section of Duke of Gloucester Street and perhaps a preacher may be speaking up on stage to the crowd about the merits of liberty, followed by another scene whereupon the crowd moves to the Capitol building and in rides the British making some proclamation on horseback.
In any event, let me describe what is done. Brandon explained that there are nine different rotations, nineteen scenes, five intervals each and the actors can rotate out the scenes with seven, sometimes eight scenes a day (this is a correction to the post.) So depending upon which day of the week you come, you will be seeing different scenes.
If you've never watched a Revolutionary City Programming, imagine you are at Colonial Williamsburg and people begin to gather (also they have microphones so you can here) and a drama unfolds right there in the street--live theater. And the drama unfolds, resolves, and then continues on in another location, live. The performers are actors who must audition for their parts (auditions are held in Memphis, not in Chicago--correction to post.) These are professional actors and interpreters who come from all over the United States (and some from other countries). A number of the actors also work for Colonial Williamsburg in interpreter roles, so you will see them in various locations around the site.
Brandon has over twenty years experience in theater and managed several troupes in Chicago before moving to the area in the fall of 2013 after he accepted this position. He has acted as well as directed and on occasion he even steps into a role for Revolutionary City, as needed (e.g., several actors out at the same time.) You'll notice he has a notepad under his arm in the picture and he was kind enough to answer our questions while also ensuring the production was going smoothly. Two other writers were on the rehearsal set that morning as well. Brandon told us that the actors/interpreters are all trained in the history of the character in the script but that oftentimes the only thing the writers have to work from is the notation of a real life person's situation, e.g., in one case a specific servant noted in the records and their occupation. The actors/interpreters can and do add to the script based on their own knowledge and experience, which I think is pretty neat and adds a nice element of surprise to the performances.
I believe in addition to adapting to our warmer climate here in Virginia, Brandon has also acclimatized to the tourists and their proclivities at Colonial Williamsburg, because he tried to step aside to let me take a picture of the interpreters in costume, behind him, in this picture, but I told him I wanted him in the picture, too! Cynthia and I thank Brandon Bruce for taking time to speak with us on a cold wet day when he was in the midst of rehearsals!
|Brandon Bruce & Interpreters, Colonial Williamsburg, Revolutionary City Rehearsal|
Question: Have you ever seen the Revolutionary City Programs? Have you been to Colonial Williamsburg? Are you planning a visit in 2015? What would you like to see?