ABOVE PHOTO: Georgina Bard (left), Director, and Richard C. Dalton, Playwright of The Play “Ben”
In playwright Richard C. Dalton’s The Play “Ben”, Ben Franklin is the central character in a poignant, humorous examination of the delicate balancing of the important issues of slavery, women’s rights and independence.
A recent transplant from Georgia , Dalton recalls the first time he visited Independence Hall. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is where it really happened. This is where they debated and signed the Declaration of Independence,’ and I was immediately inspired. I started to imagine what it must have been like.” The result is The Play “Ben” whose world premiere is Sunday, September 12th as part of this year’s Philly Fringe Festival.
The idea to debut the production in the Fringe came from Dalton ‘s co-founder of the Historical Theatre Acting Group, and director of The Play “Ben,” Georgina Bard. “This show brings together our common vision for bringing major turning points in American History to life in a unique and thought provoking way,” says Bard. “For instance, not everyone realizes that Ben Franklin himself was a slave owner,” she continues. “The inclusion of the character of George, Franklin ‘s personal slave aims to better inform that perception.”
The role of Franklin ‘s personal slave named George is portrayed by Don W. Newton. In regards to researching his part, he explains, “Unlike the other members of the cast, there simply isn’t a lot of information about George out there, which was a challenge. But then I saw it as an opportunity to create my own background for the character.”
Performances of The Play “Ben” are to be held at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church , 750 South Broad Street, Philadelphia . The collaboration with the people of the church was initiated by Dalton , who has a background in ministry. The church building is a significant historical Philadelphia landmark and provides a fitting backdrop for the show. The church is named after its founder, Rev. Charles A. Tindley, who was himself born a slave.
The cast includes Michael Powell of Horsham as Ben Franklin, Joe Lawless of Villanova as John Adams, Gavin Young of Fairmount as Thomas Jefferson, Rocco Amato of South Philadelphia as John Hancock, and Brian Patrick Harrington also of South Philadelphia as Thomas Paine. They are joined by Colleen O’Brien of Pottstown in the role of Abigail Adams and Don W. Newton of Chester as Franklin ‘s personal slave named George. Written by Richard C. Dalton of South Philadelphia . Georgina Bard of Glenside , Director. Stage Manager, Lauren Tracy of Chinatown . Assistant Stage Managers Kristine L. Bonaventura of Boothwyn, and Janelle Kauffman of Powelton Village .
The Play “Ben” opens Sunday, Sept. 12 at 4 PM . Shows on Tuesday thru Friday evenings Sept 14 – 17 at 8 PM . Two performances Saturday, Sept 18 at 1PM and 5 PM .
The show is part of the 2010 Philly Fringe Festival. Tickets $20. Discounts available, including Funsavers half-price ticket offers from PhillyFunGuide.com. Updates about the production and details on discounts are posted on the facebook page for Historical Theater Acting Group. For tickets, contact the Festival Box Office at (215) 413-1318 or visit www.livearts-fringe.org.