Deptford Twp. —As the Revolutionary War raged on in October 1777, Hessian forces invaded the riverside New Jersey plantation of James and Ann Whitall, a prominent Quaker family. However, Ann Whitall stood her ground, refusing to leave the property, and emerged as a heroine.
During the presentation "Animating the James & Ann Whitall House at Red Bank Battlefield" on June 6, actors will bring to life the men, women and children living and working on the Whitall Plantation and the soldiers who came there to build and fortify Fort Mercer. Visitors will experience what might have happened the morning before the battle. The theatrical production and post-performance workshops will be hosted by the Cultural & Heritage Commission of Rowan College at Gloucester County and the Gloucester County Parks Department.
The Battle of Red Bank slowed the British from destroying one of two revolutionary defensive forts guarding the Delaware River. American soldiers at Fort Mifflin in Pennsylvania and Fort Mercer on the Whitall Plantation blocked the flow of supplies to British forces controlling the city of Philadelphia.
During the momentous clash, Continental forces and the New Jersey militia swiftly defeated the Hessians, scattering wounded soldiers across the plantation and around the fort. The Whitall homestead became a field hospital, with Ann Whitall caring for wounded soldiers from both sides of the battle.
The presentation's scripted stories, developed by playwright Joe Salvatore, clinical associate professor of educational theater at New York University, tell the personal stories of the people living and working at the site at the time of the battle. Salvatore, a native of Pitman, New Jersey, will direct the professional actors portraying the stories of seven people in the Whitall homestead and on multiple locations on the battlefield, which will be followed by post-performance discussions. This program is designed to expand understanding and awareness of the site and its role in the Revolutionary War.
The Cultural & Heritage Commission of Rowan College at Gloucester County commissioned Salvatore to create the interactive, site-specific theater performance to enhance the interpretation of the Whitall site at Red Bank Battlefield to develop new and diverse audiences. It was developed in three phases, shaped by research and input from the community and educators.
The 44-acre Red Bank Battlefield, located on the banks of the Delaware River at 100 Hessian Avenue in National Park, New Jersey, includes the Whitall House and remains of Fort Mercer, a National Historic Landmark, and is part of the Gloucester County Park system. The Whitall house is a historic house museum interpreting 18th-century farm and domestic life. In 2013, the park received more than 208,000 visitors, and the Whitall House received 7,000 guests last year. Volunteer docents provided tours to 1,200 students in spring 2014.
Two performances will be held on Saturday, June 6, with the first at 12 p.m. and the second at 3 p.m. The event is free to the public.
Preregistration and advance tickets are required for this event; space is limited. Tickets will not be available at the door. Visit whitallperformance.eventbrite.com to register. The James and Ann Whitall House is wheelchair accessible. Please call 856-464-5214 for additional information regarding physical access. For a sign interpreter, please call two weeks in advance.
This program was developed through a partnership with the Cultural & Heritage Commission of Rowan College at Gloucester County; the Gloucester County Parks Department, an agency under the auspices of the Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders; and the New York University Steinhart School of Culture, Education & Human Development.
"Animating the James & Ann Whitall House at Red Bank Battlefield" was made possible in part through a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a Division of the Department of State; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; and contributions from Patient First in Woodbury and Fulton Bank of New Jersey and a generous donation from Deanne Farrell, chair of the Cultural & Heritage Commission.