Actors Theatre of South Carolina hopes a new play featuring the state’s Revolutionary War heroes will become a permanent tourist attraction.
Lowcountry Revolutionaries! America’s First Freedom Fighters opens Thursday night at the Forever Charleston Theatre at the downtown Charleston visitor’s center.
It will be the culmination of 12 years of research for actor and Producing Director Chris Weatherhead. She wanted to tell the story of South Carolina’s Revolutionary War heroes whose names may not make it into the history textbooks.
“There was a lot more blood that was shed on this land for us to be a free nation than anywhere in the 13 colonies,” she said. “And I have discovered these amazing heroes over the years and it’s just a lot of fun to put it together.”
Weatherhead said after the April opening, the play will return during Charleston’s tourist season in October and December.
“We really want to offer this as an attraction to a lot of the groups and individuals that come in to visit our city because they’re not getting the American Revolution here the way they should,” she said. “And it’s a real honor and privilege for us to do so.”
Weatherhead’s previous work focused on one of South Carolina’s heroes, John Laurens. She was involved in the film John Laurens’ War, which was shot in the Lowcountry and featured actors involved with the Actors Theatre. Discussions are currently underway with a yet-unnamed network to air the film nationally.
Laurens is featured in Lowcountry Revolutionaries! America’s First Freedom Fighters, played by the same actor who portrayed him in the film.
“We have eight different heroes and they all are telling their stories one-by-one. But the one guy who’s talking gets interrupted by the next guy and they may or may not know each other and there’s some great camaraderie,” Weatherhead said. She plays Rebecca Brewton Motte in the play. Motte famously allowed American troops to set her house on fire to drive out British troops who were using it as a fort.
“Learning about every single one of these people, they’re all amazing,” said Air Force veteran and actor David Perez, who plays John Featherston. Featherston was an African-American Marine who was crucial in Charleston harbor’s naval defense. “We just want everybody to get just an amazing theatrical experience and just really tell the story of amazing people throughout history.”
Perez enjoyed living in Charleston so much while stationed there in the Air Force, he decided to stay and remain immersed in the city’s rich history. He served five tours overseas.
“When I was stationed here, I fell in love with it,” he said. “Coming out of the military, I just stayed here but I never knew anything about any of these people. I think the show is a very good thing to let people know about all the history that surrounds Charleston.”
“With the amount of history that is just buried within South Carolina that nobody really knows about, so the show running continuously over and over the years will just be an amazing thing not only for tourists but an amazing thing for people just here, growing up in the city learning about all these amazing people,” Perez said.
The cast is supported with percussion by Tracy Bush of the acclaimed Taiko Charleston drumming group. The soundtrack includes songs of the period.
“There’s just some interesting values that these people had that they felt were worth dying for: freedom and liberty and a lot of things that are very, very basic to Americans,” she said.
Lowcountry Revolutionaries runs April 26-29 at the theatre inside the Charleston Visitor’s Center at 375 Meeting Street downtown. For ticket information or to reserve a seat call the visitors center at 843-696-2761. Click here for more information. Cash and checks only will be accepted at the door.
Heroes depicted in Lowcountry Revolutionaries (descriptions provided by Chris Weatherhead):
Francis Marion – Nicknamed the “Swamp Fox” – escaped occupation by the British in Charleston, fought in swamps with his band of men…white, Black, slave and free
Captain Henry Felder – led militia’s who helped repel the British in 1775 at Sullivan’s Island – chosen to make gunpowder for our Patriot government – burned out twice and killed by Tories
Rebecca Motte – tricked British General occupying her house has headquarters on King Street and later gave flaming arrows to The Swamp Fox to burn her mansion in Fort Motte to force British surrender
John Featherston – African American naval marine under attack in first British firing on an American ship in Charleston Harbor – later an artillery gunner at Fort Moultrie
Emily Geiger – 16-year-old messenger went through Redcoat-occupied territory to carry a secret message from General Nathaniel Greene to General Thomas Sumter, was captured and hid the letter by swallowing it
Peter Harris – Catawba native, American patriot who fought in the Battle of Stono River against British ships and Hessian troops
Mary Tenor – African American mother and two sons who tricked Loyalists who were hanging her Christian master, saving his life
John Laurens – American abolitionists who lobbied for freed slave troops while serving as a top aide to General George Washington. He was killed in ambush near Beaufort in the final weeks of the war. (He is also a character in the smash hit musical “Hamilton” and fought a duel for the honor of General Washington)