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music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards

book by Peter Stone

July 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 1983

Alverno College - Pitman Theatre

:It is May 8, 1776. In Philadelphia, the weather is swelteringly hot and humid and as the Second continental Congress proceeds through its business, John Adams, the representative from Massachusetts, is vigorously complaining about congressional inaction on his proposals for Independence. He lists various grievances against King George III and urges a yes" vote on Independence. The other delegates, irritated by his constant arguments, yell at him to sit down ("For God's Sake, John, Sit Down"). Adams complains that Congress has accomplished nothing even though the delegates have been meeting for over a year ("Piddle, Twiddle"). (During his song, two delegates prove his point by arguing the merits of a petition for compensation for a dead mule.) Frustrated by the seemingly insurmountable Congressional lassitude, Adams flees the chamber and as he stands outside the hall, he reads a letter from his wife, Abigail. She asks him to finish his business in Philadelphia and return home to her and their sick children. As if his imagination has brought her before him, John asks Abagail if she has organized the women of Boston to make saltpeter (a substance needed for making gunpowder). She tells him, first of all, he hasn't told her how to make saltpeter and, second, the women won't make it until he procures dressmaker's pins for them. They end their conversation by pledging themselves to each other ("Till Then") as Abigail disappears. The delegates again tell Adams to sit down and be quiet. He goes off to find Benjamin Franklin.


Adams finds Franklin having his portrait painted. After Adams complains that his arguments for Independence have not prevailed, Franklin reminds him no colony has ever broken away from its parent country before. He also reminds Adams that he is obnoxious and disliked by the Congress and perhaps Independence might be accepted if someone else proposes it - someone neither obnoxious nor disliked. Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, enters. Franklin, who had sent for Lee, again suggests someone other than Adams should propose Independence. Lee offers to get a proposal from the Virginia legislature himself. When Adams questions Lee's ability to accomplish this, Lee explains that his family history makes him the perfect person for the job ("The Lees of Old Virginia").


On June 7, 1776, Dr. Lyman Hall, a new delegate from Georgia, arrives in the Congressional Chamber and is greeted by McNair, the Congressional custodian. McNair introduces him to the entering delegates, each of whom asks about Georgia's stand on Independence. He informs them he believes himself free to keep his personal convictions - personal. Franklin, who suffers from gout, enters limping and is soon followed by Adams. Adams, who has been silent in Congress while waiting for Lee to return with the resolution from the Virginia legislature, is teased by the other delegates as John Hancock, the President of the Congress, and Charles Thomson, the Secretary to the Congress, take their places. Hancock gavels the 380th meeting of the Congress to order. His first order of business closes off the stores of rum to Stephen Hopkins, delegate from Rhode Island, and introduces Hall to the other delegates. When Thomson notes all members are present except for the New Jersey delegation, Hancock asks Franklin if he knows the reason for their absence. Franklin, whose son William is the royal governor of New Jersey, informs the Congress he and his son have stopped communicating due to their differences over Independence. Hancock next asks Thomas Jefferson for the weather report. After reporting the temperature is 87 very humid degrees, he announces he is leaving that night for home.


A courier enters and gives Thomson a communiqué from George Washington, the commander of the Army of the United Colonies. Washington's letter speaks of his fear that his exhausted and under-equipped troops will be unable to stop a large force of British soldiers from attacking New York. If the attack is successful and if New York is captured, New England will be separated from the other colonies. Colonel Thomas McKean, a delegate from Delaware, complains that Washington's letters are always gloomy and depressing. Hancock asks for new resolutions and as Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire reads a resolution discouraging extravagance, Richard Henry Lee strides into the chamber. Lee reads the resolution for Independence and it is seconded by Adams. As Hancock calls for debate on the resolution, John Dickinson of Pennsylvania makes a motion to indefinitely postpone the question of Independence. The motion is seconded by George Read of Delaware and the entire Congress votes on Dickinson's motion. New York abstains; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia vote to begin debate, while Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Georgia vote to postpone debate, leaving the deciding vote to Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island, who is out of the hall. He returns in time to vote for debating the question of Independence. The debate opens and the most vocal delegates state their positions: Dickinson is in favor of petitioning King George III on the colonists' grievances and he is against cutting ties to England through revolt and revolution. Adams and Franklin argue that England has not granted the colonists the full rights of Englishmen and it is too late to reconcile with England; it is a full year since the battles of Lexington and Concord. The delegates from North and South Carolina worry about the power of the individual colonies in any new federation.


As the argument between Dickinson and Adams grows more heated, Caesar Rodney of Delaware, who suffers from cancer, collapses. Col. McKean offers to take him back home. Seeing that the voting majority will go his way, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina moves to vote on Independence. To stall the motion, Franklin asks that the resolution be read aloud again. As Thomson is reading it, the New Jersey delegation, led by Rev. John Witherspoon, arrives. Witherspoon informs Congress the new New Jersey delegation has been authorized to vote for Independence. Now it looks like the vote will be six for Independence, six against (with New York abstaining, as usual) and Adams reminds Hancock that the President of the Congress has the deciding vote in all ties. Dickinson, worried the resolution might pass, moves that any vote for Independence must be passed unanimously. His motion is seconded; the vote produces a tie, which Hancock breaks by voting for a unanimous decision. The vote for Independence is called again. Adams now calls for a postponement for time to write a declaration defining the reasons for Independence. This motion is seconded; the vote produces another tie, which Hancock breaks by voting for the postponement. He chooses Adams, Franklin, Lee, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert Livingston of New York to write the declaration, announcing it must be written, debated and passed by the beginning of July - three weeks away. Lee declines and Hancock appoints Jefferson in his place. Hancock adjourns the session as Jefferson complains he must go home to visit his wife.


The Declaration Committee argues about who should write it ("But, Mr. Adams"). Franklin suggests Adams should do it. Adams declines, saying he is too disliked by the other delegates. Adams suggests Franklin write it. Franklin declines, saying he is more skilled writing lighter material. Adams turns next to Sherman, who declines by saying he is not a writer at all. Livingston declines, saying he must return to New York to visit his wife and newborn son. Adams turns finally to Jefferson, who tries to decline by saying that he intends to visit his wife in Virginia. Adams praises Jefferson's writing and quotes his earlier essay, "The Necessity for Taking Up Arms." When Jefferson still tries to decline, Adams threatens to use physical force on him, and he thrusts a quill pen in Jefferson's hand. Adams and the others leave as Jefferson walks back to his quarters with the pen


When Adams and Franklin visit Jefferson a week later to check on his progress, they find him depressed and surrounded by crumpled pieces of paper - lonely, depressed and uninspired, he has made no progress. Jefferson's wife, Martha, has been sent for by Adams and she now enters. Adams and Franklin leave the room as Jefferson and Martha embrace.


The Jeffersons stay locked in the room all day and into the night. Adams exchanges letters with his wife, Abigail. She asks why he hasn't sent for her. When he asks her to come to Philadelphia, she tells him she can't, their children have the measles. They speak of their love and promise to see each other soon ("Yours, Yours, Yours").


When Martha finally opens the shutters, Adams and Franklin ask her how a man as quiet as Jefferson won her love. She tells them she loves his violin playing ("He Plays the Violin"). Jefferson enters as Martha, Adams and Franklin are dancing. Jefferson takes Martha back to his room as Franklin and Adams salute the greatness of the fiddler.


It is now June 22nd and the Congress is back in session. Delegates read, talk, eat and sleep in the chamber as various committees are formed to deal with Congressional correspondence, counterfeit money, military defeat in Canada and secrets. Adams argues with Chase as the courier enters with a message from General Washington. He reports on the poor state of his troops and asks the Congress to send a War Committee to New Jersey to boost morale. As the War Committee (Adams, Franklin and Chase) leave for New Jersey, the other delegates in favor of Independence also leave. Dickinson and the Conservatives dance a minuet and sing of their caution and desire to hold onto their wealth ("Cool, Cool Considerate Men") as the courier delivers another message from Washington: the British have taken control of New York Harbor and he fears they may next move on to Philadelphia.


The delegates all depart, leaving McNair, the Courier and a workman in the chamber. When the workman asks the Courier, who is from Massachusetts, if he's seen any fighting, the Courier tells them about his two best friends who were killed on the same day ("Momma, Look Sharp").


Jefferson is waiting outside the chamber as Hancock orders Thomson to read the declaration. Adams and Franklin approach Jefferson and congratulate him on the excellence of the document. Franklin compares the creation of the new country to an egg, which leads the trio to discuss which bird should be the symbol for America ("The Egg"). After considering the dove (Jefferson's choice) and the turkey (Franklin's choice), they settle on the eagle (Adams's choice).


Thomas Jefferson completes his reading of the Declaration of Independence as the Congress is in session on June 28th; Hancock asks if any delegates want to offer amendments, deletions or alterations to it. McKean suggests the removal of the word "Scottish" from a sentence referring to the foreign mercenaries used by the British. Reverend Witherspoon suggests the addition of a reference to "Divine Providence." The debate over the changes gets more heated as the days pass: Bartlett wants to confine the complaints against the British to disagreements with King George III, while Sherman wants to remove all mention of Parliament. Jefferson agrees to all these changes, but when Dickinson wants him to remove a reference to King George III as a tyrant, Jefferson refuses. As Hancock is about to call for a vote on the Declaration, Rutledge objects to Jefferson's denunciation of slavery and the slave trade in his list of complaints against King George III. Rutledge defends slavery as a way of life in South Carolina and affirms his belief that slaves are property and not people. He also pointedly mentions that Jefferson himself is a slave-holder. Jefferson announces he has decided to free his slaves, as Hopkins also denounces the slave trade. Rutledge accuses the northern colonies of hypocrisy and describes how northern shippers and merchants get rich on the slave trade ("Molasses to Rum"). Rutledge, Hewes of North Carolina and Hall of Georgia angrily leave the chamber. Without the south, the Declaration cannot be adopted.


Chase enters the congressional chamber and happily reports that the Maryland Assembly has approved the Virginia resolution as Dickinson and four other delegates leave the chamber. Faced with almost certain defeat, Adams desperately tries to rally his forces. He sends McKean to Delaware to bring back the ailing Rodney. Franklin then insists that Adams agree to the removal of the slavery clause in order to get the votes of the Carolinas and Georgia. Adams calls to his wife for help and advice. As they speak, McNair delivers two kegs of saltpeter made by Abigail and the women of Boston ("Compliments"). Adams, his faith in the cause renewed, tells Jefferson and Franklin to talk to all the wavering delegates - they must get every vote. Thomson reads a message from a discouraged Washington asking for a reply to his last 15 messages. He and Hancock leave Adams alone in the chamber. Adams looks at the dispatch from Washington which warns of impending doom and disaster. Deterred but determined Adams gives voice to his vision of the new country ("Is Anybody There?").


Hall re-enters the chamber and tells Adams he has decided to vote for Independence. The other delegates, including Caesar Rodney, return and Hancock calls for the vote on the Virginia resolution. The delegates are silent as Thomson calls on each for his vote. New York abstains and Pennsylvania passes on the first call, but all the other northern and middle colonies vote "Yea." When South Carolina is called, Rutledge demands the removal of the slavery clause as the condition for the votes of South and North Carolina. Franklin again implores Adams to agree to the removal. Adams asks for Jefferson's opinion and Jefferson removes the clause, scratching it out himself. South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia vote "Yea." When Pennsylvania's vote is called again, the three delegates are unable to agree, so Franklin asks Hancock to poll each of them. Franklin votes "Yea" and Dickinson votes "Nay," leaving the deciding vote to Wilson, who usually votes whichever way Dickinson does. This time, however, worried his name will go down in history as the man who prevented American Independence, he votes "Yea." Hancock asks that only those who sign their names to the Declaration of Independence be allowed to sit in the Congress. Dickinson, still hoping for a reconciliation with England, announces he cannot in good conscience sign the Declaration, but tells the Congress he will join the Army and fight to protect the new country. Adams leads the Congress in a salute to Dickinson as he leaves the chamber.


As Hancock leads the delegates in signing the Declaration, the Courier enters with another dispatch from Washington. It reports that preparations are almost complete for the battle of New York, simultaneously expressing worry about America's badly outnumbered and under trained troops.


On the evening of July 4, 1776, the Liberty Bell rings in the background as Thomson calls each of the delegates to sign their names to the Declaration of Independence.



Show Program








Production Staff


Michael Ceveris

David Eggebrecht


David Eggebrecht

Stage Manager

Linda Englert Jaeger

Musical Directgor

Robert Gee


Stephen Lockser

Lighting Designer

John Dolphin

Set Designer

Kimberly Kunz

Technical Director

Kimberly Kunz

Set Construction

Margaret Banister

Jan Hinz

Chris Otto

Sound Crew

Mark Horaitis

Randy Peterson

Costume Crew

Lynn Lohmeyer

Sharon Soner

Tammy Wesseler


Linda Rollins


Prop Mistress

Judy Schoeneld

Stage Crew

Darlene Capek

Mary Carroll

Anne Marie Cheney

Bonnie Miller

Connie Raduenz

Special Effects

Peter Jundt

Fly Crew

Bob Kafka

Todd Hollenberger

Bob Mertens

Graphic Designer

Donna Kay Kohls


Jan Brunow

House Manager

Maggie Ley

Rosie Peterson


Bob Kafka


Gil Shine




John Hancock

James Holzer


New Hampshire:

Dr. Josian Bartlett

Paul Ruggieri



John Adms

John Holt


Rhode Island: 

Stephen Hopkins

Nick DeLeo



Roger Sherman

Mike Crowley


New York: 

Lewis Morris

Gil Shine


New York: 

Robert Livingston

Peter Natzke


New Jersey: 

Rev. Jonathan Withersoon

Evan Jaeger



Benjamin Franklin

Gordon Rise



John Dickenson

Vincent Rideout



James Wilson

Robert Olkowski



Caesar Rodney

David Blank



 Col. Thoma McKean

David Handrich



George Read

Karl Miller



Samuel Chase

Glenn Berres



Richard Henry Lee

Steve Van Dien



Thomas Jefferson

Todd Borgardt


North Carolina: 

Joseph Hewes

Nathan Lewis


South Carolina: 

Edward Rutledge

Matthew Brown



Dr. Lyman Hall

Robert Powers



Chares Thomson

Robert Gee


Custodian:  Andrew McNair

Frank Sander


Abigail Adams

Jeanne McGowen


Martha Jefferson

Sally Peerson



Tom Eggebrecht


Leather Apron

Paul Joseph Cook





Janice Henningson

Ted Kasper

Gay Lohmeyer

Paul Manske




Ann Meyer

Dave Naegele

Gary Peppel

Clint Peterson



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