Union Scholars Time Travel to 1776

Declaration of Independence (1819) by John Trumbull. PC: wikimedia.org

Declaration of Independence (1819) by John Trumbull. PC: wikimedia.org

Kayla Miller.jpg

On August 27, 2017, the Union Scholars time traveled to 1776 where they witnessed the signing of the Declaration of Independence and met Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and other influential people of the time. 

Well, this may not be exactly true, but the Union Scholars were able to partake in an unforgettable event arranged by the Honors Program. At Nebraska Wesleyan Theater, the scholars glimpsed into the past through the award-winning musical 1776 which elaborated on the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the events that led up to its commencement.

The second number, “Sit Down John,” provided audience members with an enlightened yet humorous view of Congress’s opinion of the ever-outspoken John Adams. Not only were there “funny anecdotes” as senior Psychology major LaurenLee Meadows mentioned, but DJ Henderson, sophomore International Rescue & Relief major, also notes the musical was an extremely “well-developed perspective into the early Congress’s life.” 

Nebraska Wesleyan provided the audience with a surreal and captivating picture of the members’ lives and the events therein, including representatives becoming ill inhibiting their ability to serve.  And others desperately missing their wives, including the very writer of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson. During one scene, Adams pleads with Jefferson to write a quality version of the Declaration and all Jefferson can think of is his new, young wife. It is not until after she visits that the first real draft of the document is written. 

Through song, dance, humor, music and passion, the Nebraska Wesleyan Theater brought life to textbook knowledge and broadened the often-romanticized idea of the start of the United States of America. Malia Nash, a junior Nursing major, says, “They had their problems” and were just as imperfect as today’s leaders. 

Characters weren’t simply stoic figures, but rather real people with real ideas, passions, feelings and standpoints. While the characters’ personalities bounded in realism, the costumes fell more on the modest side. Throughout the musical, characters wore modern attire with only accent pieces signifying the time period. 

However, this was not a drawback, but instead allowed a greater focus on presented information. One might even infer that the modern attire allowed attendees to associate themselves with the characters and challenge them to answer complicated questions, such as whether to sustain or denounce slavery.

Overall, 1776 provided a researched yet interactive glance into America’s beginning, leaving the audience satisfied, enlightened, and challenged to uncover the beauty of the past and make a commitment to better the future.

Bravo, 1776!

For more information on Honors Program events or how to become a Union Scholar, contact co-directors Dr. Malcolm Russell and Dr. Corraine McNeill at malcolm.russell@ucollege.edu and corraine.mcneill@ucollege.edu, respectively.

Kayla Miller is a junior studying nursing.