Friday, February 25, 2011

An Audio Walking Tour to accompany the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s World Premieres of The Flag Maker of Market Street by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder And Blood Divided by Geoffrey Chastang

Thank you for taking advantage of this audio walking tour. This tour is designed to guide you through some of the sites relevant to the action of the two Civil War plays at ASF, using your smart-phone device. Ten audio tracks are available below that coordinate with locations in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. You may walk or drive this tour.

Start your tour HERE

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Track 1: Introduction
We recommend listening to this track before departing for the tour OR immediately after arriving and parking at Court Square.

  Track 01 by Alabama Shakes

Track 2: Court Square

  Track 02 by Alabama Shakes

Track 3: Exchange Hotel 

  Track 03 by Alabama Shakes 

Track 4: George Cowles Store Site 
Walk or drive HERE 

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  Track 04 by Alabama Shakes

Track 5: Dr. Baldwin’s Office

  Track 05 by Alabama Shakes

Track 6: The Montgomery Theatre
Walk or drive HERE

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  Track 06 by Alabama Shakes

Track 7: The State Capitol 
Walk or drive HERE

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  Track 07 by Alabama Shakes 

Track 8: The Confederate Memorial

  Track 08 by Alabama Shakes 

Track 9: The Baldwin Sister Houses
We recommend driving HERE

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  Track 09 by Alabama Shakes

Track 10: Closing
  Track 10 by Alabama Shakes 

Extended Sites
A number of other sites in the downtown area relate to the Civil War plays and Montgomery’s important role in the history of the Civil War and Civil Rights They are labeled on the map as a. – r. and a brief description of each is offered below.

a. Rosa Parks Historic Site Marker at Court Square – this marks the site where Rosa Parks stepped onto the Montgomery bus and made history.
b. Winter Building (Telegraph office) – the second floor of this building housed the telegraph office that send the message to fire on Fort Sumter.
c. Central Bank – The bank housed in this building financed the Confederate government and was subsequently bankrupt at the end of the war.
d. Estelle and Concert Halls – Event halls where Jefferson Davis’ inaugural ball was held. These eventually became confederate hospitals
e. Confederate Hospitals
f. Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church –In this National Historic Landmark see the modest pulpit where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., first preached his message of hope and brotherhood. This church was also a center point of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. A large mural in the church depicts King's Civil Rights crusade from Montgomery to Memphis.
g. Yancey’s House Site – the site where William Lowndes Yancey’s townhouse
h. Yancey’s office site – the site of Yancey’s Law Office
i. Baldwin’s House Site – The location of Dr. Baldwin’s Home
j. Old Alabama Town – This 19th Century Alabama Village features several examples of homes and buildings from around Alabama, including the dog trot where William Lowndes Yancey died.
k. Cowles House Site – the site of George Cowles Home
l. Oakwood Cemetery (Baldwin and Hale graves) – Visit Dr. Baldwin, Buddie Willie and Jim Hale, among others in this beautiful cemetery for all people.
m. Riverfront – The Alabama River made Montgomery the king of cotton trade. Get a glimpse of the majestic river and consider a river boat ride on the Harriott II.
n. Union Prison (Biscuit Stadium) – the home of the AA baseball team the Montgomery Biscuits is also the site where union troops captured at Shiloh were imprisoned in Montgomery. Buddie Willie alludes to this in Blood Divided.

View Civil War Tour Extended Sites in a larger map


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Getting Back to the Facts: Q&A with Historians Bob Bradley and Mary Ann Neeley

The two world premieres on stage now at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, The Flag Maker of Market Street and Blood Divided, tell the stories of lesser known people who lived in Montgomery at the time of the outbreak of the Civil War. Two playwrights were commissioned by ASF to tell this story, but they could not have even begun their work with out input from distinguished local historians. Two of those historians, Bob Bradley and Mary Ann Neeley, recently participated in a Q & A session with ASF’s Member Newsletter, the Quarterly Quill where the fact and the fiction of our stories can be clearly seen, and great credit is given to the artists for their work in bringing Montgomery of 1861 to life before our eyes.
Montgomery is not known as a bustling metropolis, yet in the plays the city seems the center of the universe. Can you explain?
Market and Court Square to the Capitol
Mary Ann Neeley: Montgomery was the “center of the universe” for the South in the waning years of 1860 and until May 1861. Not only was southern attention focused on this city of about 8,500, but the eyes of the North and Europe were also looking in this direction.  With Lincoln’s election in November 1860, the world watched to see what action southern states would take, as one by one they left the Union.  Alabama seceded on January 11, 1861, and immediately issued an invitation to other southern states to convene in the Capitol in Montgomery on February 4.  Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama were present at the opening of the convention with the Texas delegation on the way.  Within the next two weeks, these states had formed the Confederate States of America, elected Jefferson Davis as president and  on February 18 inaugurated him on the portico of the Capitol. Until the moving of the government in May to Richmond, Montgomery enjoyed her role as the “center of the universe.”

How long have we known about George Cowles and his commission by Jefferson Davis to create the first confederate flag?
Ad for Cowles' Store
Bob Bradley: I discovered that the flag was made at Cowles’ store about ten years ago. Jefferson Davis did not commission Cowles or anyone else to make the flag. The Confederate Congress created a Committee on Flag and Seal to select the flag. The committee was headed by William Porcher Miles of South Carolina. The committee received at least 141 designs but, could not agree on one. Frustrated with all of the elaborate designs, they commissioned four models and presented them to Congress on March 4. When the design was selected by Congress (not Davis) it was taken to Cowles’ store where merino (wool) was purchased to make the flag. Calvin L. Sayre, former U.S. Marine and former U.S. Navy Commodore Duncan Nathaniel Ingraham supervised the fabrication of the flag. Since Cowles was the exclusive dealer of Wheeler and Wilson sewing machines, I assume, that is what was used to make the flag.  I also assume that it was made by a female since Miles wrote years later that the flag was quickly made by “fair and nimble fingers.” All of this happened in one day and there was no prior contact with Cowles by anyone. Cowles may not have even been in the store the day the flag was made.

Did the real George Cowles have slaves and hold unionist meetings? Was he really such a conflicted man?
BB: Warren Rogers, in his book Confederate Home Front: Montgomery in the Civil War, notes on pages 4 and 105 that Cowles was a Unionist who held secret meetings at his store after the war began. That is all that I know. To be honest Cowles was historically very obscure and until there was discussion about the play, the only other people beside Mr. Rogers who knew that Cowles existed were I and Mary Ann Neely. I don’t know if he was conflicted, but owning slaves and being a Unionist was not uncommon. Remember that in March of 1861, eight slave states were still loyal to the Union, only seven had seceded
MAN: I have checked the slave census for 1850 and 1860 and found that George Cowles had two slaves on both, but the ages did not correlate so they may not have been the same ones.  Each time it was a male and a younger female. The 1860 census states that the mulatto male was forty and the girl 15. 

What happened to George? What happened to the flag he made?
BB: We don’t have a clue what happened to Cowles. As I said, he is very obscure and really seems to have done nothing more that run a store on Market Street. William Porcher Miles kept the models and the original flag. According to a letter written by him in 1872, they were all lost or destroyed during the war.
MAN: According to the 1870 census, George and wife Ellen were back in Connecticut and although the writing was poor, it appears that George had given up on sewing machines and was then a liquor manufacturer. I could not find him on the 1880 census. 

The final moments of Flag Maker take place on the morning that Cowles’ flag is raised over the capital. Can you tell us what that morning really looked like?
BB: The whole thing seems to have been a bit of a rushed affair, without much planned fanfare. Mary Boykin Chestnut barely mentions it in her diary which is interesting, since she was hanging around with Ingraham and Miles on a routine basis. In fact, she witnessed the entire affair from her balcony rather than go up for it. The Montgomery True Blue(s) saluted the flag with seven Cannons and that she was told by Ingraham, who had heard from someone else, that the “mob” was lifeless with no cheering or enthusiasm. Mr. Canning's band played “Massa’s In De Cold, Cold Ground” during or after the ceremony. The Montgomery Weekly Mail notes that Mr. Canning’s Band also played the tune “The Red White and Blue.” The Advertiser states that the crowd would have been three times as large “if it had been possible to have given an earlier announcement of the ceremony.”

Jim Hale is one of the lesser known, but incredibly important people from the moment in time we get to visit in Blood Divided. What impression did Jim leave on Montgomery?
Hale's Infirmary
Mary Ann Neeley: Jim Hale’s impact on Montgomery was diverse and important.  After the War, he and Dr. Baldwin entered into a partnership wherein Baldwin backed Jim as a contractor, utilizing his skills as a carpenter.  Four outstanding examples of this are the 1878 Baldwin Sister Houses on South Perry Street.  Other houses that Jim built have been documented. Also, family records state that Jim and Dr. Baldwin developed the Madison Park neighborhood for blacks on land that had been part of the Baldwin plantation.  Jim and his wife, Annie, had a daughter who married Dr. Cornelius Dorsette, the first registered black physician in Alabama.  After the daughter’s and a son’s deaths, Annie and Jim built  Hale’s Infirmary, the first hospital for blacks (other than emergency hospitals for small pox, etc) which opened about 1890, soon after Jim’s death.  It served the community until 1955.
The Hales lived on Washington Street, about a block below the State Archives Building and had a planer mill operation across the street.  Jim frequently had boarders or relatives living with them.  On the 1870 census, one of the occupants was James Rapier, a leading black political figure of that period. Hale relatives continue to make contributions to the political, social and economic life of Alabama.

Was William Lowndes Yancey as extreme as he seems in Blood Divided?
William Lowndes Yancy
MAN:  William Lowndes Yancey was the standard bearer for secession, and had been an ardent promoter of the idea for years before 1860. He had a direct hand in the election of Abraham Lincoln when he led the southern delegations from the Democratic Convention in Charleston, April 1860. This fractured the Democratic Party and led to three presidential candidates opposing Lincoln, the Republican.  Yancey had many talents, but, according to some, his temper was unpredictable, and he seemed to have few close friends.  A remarkable orator, dedicated to his version of states rights, Yancey was so radical that he was not even chosen to be a member of Alabama’s delegation to the convention that would birth the CSA. 

Is the relationship between Jim and the Baldwins in Blood Divided accurate?
MAN: From the Baldwin family’s memoirs, Jim and Dr. Baldwin were friends even though there was a master-servant relationship. Jim did carry packages to Buddie Willie in camp, and he did go to Franklin to bring back Buddie Willie’s body after the young boy was killed during the Battle of Franklin.  It seems evident that there was mutual respect and trust between the two who went into business together after the war was over. 

What physical evidence can still be seen in Montgomery of the men and women we meet in these plays?
Dr. Baldwin's Office Corner
MAN:  Evidence of the characters met in the plays are to be found all around.  Market Street received a new name, Dexter Avenue, in 1884. The action in the Flag Maker took place at 49 Market Street, within a store near the corner on the north side of Market and Perry streets, A copy of the Stars and Bars, the flag Cowles made, flies daily in front of the First White House of the Confederacy at the corner of Union and Washington streets. Court Square was the site of many kinds of sales, including slaves, in the antebellum period. Bibb Street bears the name of Alabama’s first two governors, the uncles of William Bibb. The central portion of the Alabama Capitol was the Capitol of the Confederacy from February to May, 1861.

In Blood Divided, Dr. W.O. Baldwin lived at the southwest corner of South Perry Street and Adams Avenue; although his house is gone, one block south of where it stood are the four Baldwin Sister Houses, built by Jim Hale about 1878 for Dr. Baldwin’s daughters. Dr. Baldwin, at one time, had his office in the building that still stands at 78 Dexter Avenue, on the southwest corner of Dexter Avenue and Perry Street.  Across the street at 67 Dexter is a building that housed one of the hospitals in which Dr.Baldwin attended the sick and wounded during the Civil War. This is the only remaining structure of the several which served as hospitals during the conflict.  The Dogtrot in Old Alabama Town was the country home of William Lowndes Yancey where, in July 1863, he died.
In Oakwood Cemetery are the graves, in relatively close proximity, of W.L. Yancey, Dr. Baldwin, his wife, Mary Martin Baldwin, his son, Buddie Willie, Jim and Annie Hale and Mammy Sallie Baldwin.

From a historian’s perspective, does The Flag Maker of Market Street give audiences a fairly accurate glimpse into this tempestuous moment in time?
BB:  It is accurate in that Cowles was a Unionist, he did meet with Bibb and others in his store and the flag was made in his store apparently by a female, on a Wheeler and Wilson sewing machine. All of the emotions expressed in the play surely existed at the time. To manage to have just four people express those feelings and emotions is artistic genius. Additionally, the actors are dead on. The sentence structure and mannerisms are perfect. I think Elyzabeth Wilder has done a wonderful job of taking these few facts and weaving them into a story that captures the imagination of the audience and leaves then wanting to know more.
MAN: I agree totally with your remarks about the play and the talent of Elyzabeth in taking a few facts and creating a drama filled with both extreme tension and comic relief.  I have now seen it two and a half times and would happily go again if the opportunity should arise! 

Bob Bradley is a graduate of University of West Florida. He served in the National Park Service for 13 years, 4 of these as Historian at Fort Sumter. He spent 3 years as Site Administrator for Alabama Historical Commission. He has been with the Alabama State Archives as Curator and Conservator 22 years. Civil War Battle Flags have been his major focus, but he knows more about Civil War than anybody in Montgomery and most likely Alabama!

Mary Ann Neeley is a historian, preservationist, author, and former educator. She earned a degree in history at Huntingdon College and was a teacher before becoming director of the Landmarks Foundation. She has written and edited several books on local history including The Works of Matthew Blue, Montgomery's First Historian


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bringing the Bard to Life

"Bringing the Bard to Life" is an outreach educational opportunity for our interns to go into schools and perform a 1-hour "Macbeth" and lead a workshop.  The performance of "Macbeth" uses all 8 interns and each of them play several characters.  The script has been altered to hit the high points and has all the famous lines from this well-known Shakespeare play.  From a theatrical standpoint the performance offers monologues, fight scenes, romance, and costume changes off to the side.  Then during the workshop the interns lead the students to the use of poetry in language and discovery of the themes represented.

Erik and Caitlin before the show during fight call.

Erik and Seth for fight call.

Another shot.

The cast enters hooded as the witches.

The stools are where they wait and grab props for their next scene.

Macbeth (Erik) as the new king.

Cheers to Macbeth.

Macbeth visits the witches again.

Macbeth's power and guilt gets the best of him.

Interns and cast of Macbeth.
The actors do a fantastic job with this "truck and trunk" show.  All their props and costumes plus themselves fit in two vehicles.  The show is fast paced with drums, bells, shrieks, and chants.  The students in the workshop enjoy being apart of the discovery process when it comes to looking at the themes and language components in "Macbeth."  This workshop runs through May so if your school is interested in having them come to your school go to for more information.