Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Alexander Hamilton Exposed in TREASURE at IWU, Opening Tomorrow

What do you know about Alexander Hamilton? Founding father, on the ten-dollar bill, mortally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr... That's about all I know, although the ten-dollar bill thing reminds me that he was the first Secretary of the Treasury in the new United States and created the foundation for the nation's entire financial system.

Tim Slover's play Treasure, opening on Halloween night at Illinois Wesleyan's E. Melba Kirkpatrick Laboratory Theatre, takes a more personal look at Alexander Hamilton, focusing on his marriage and the political ambition -- as well as the sex scandal -- that almost ruined it.

In the IWU press release for the show, guest director Michael Cotey compares Hamilton to the likes of President Bill Clinton, saying, “Treasure dramatizes the United States’ first political sex scandal... Our history is full of ambitious politicians who have tested the fates with their own indiscretions.”

And it wasn't just that Hamilton had a fling while he was married and while he was at the height of his political power under George Washington. Hamilton had the bad fortune -- or bad taste -- to pick one Maria Reynolds, who had been married to a ne'er-do-well named James Reynolds since she was 16, as the partner in his transgression. Hamilton's and Mrs. Reynolds' sex-on-the-side arrangement lasted some three years, and during most of that time, her husband was blackmailing Hamilton, threatening to expose the affair. If you watch a lot of movies or television shows about con artists, you might recognize this sort of thing as a long form of the badger game.

Reynolds was also involved in other nefarious schemes, including counterfeiting and a scam involving speculation on unpaid wages to veterans. He used his leverage over Hamilton to keep himself out of trouble for those offenses, but some of the Secretary of the Treasury's political rivals found out, anyway, and Hamilton was accused of being a participant in the veterans' wages scheme. Hamilton eventually admitted his relationship with Maria Reynolds and published a very long defense with a very long title -- Observations on Certain Documents contained in Nos. V. and VI. of The History of the United States for the Year 1796, in which the Charge of Speculation against Alexander Hamilton, late Secretary of the Treasury, is fully refuted -- with all kinds of detail about his illicit love affair.

That scandal put all kinds of pressure on Elizabeth Hamilton, his wife, and severely damaged Hamilton's reputation on all fronts. It also created a dandy little story about how the world worked behind the scenes in the early days of American politics, one which playwright Tim Slover digs into in Treasure.

For IWU, Zach Wagner will portray Alexander Hamilton, with Elizabeth Albers as Elizabeth "Betsy" Hamilton, and Anna Sciaccotta as Maria Reynolds, the "other woman." Others in the cast include Nick Giambrone as James Reynolds, Steven Czajkowski as James Monroe, and Elliott Plowman as Reverend Frederick Muhlenberg, the first Speaker of the House.

Director Michael Cotey comes to Illinois Wesleyan from Milwaukee, where he was Founding Artistic Director of Youngblood Theatre Company. Cotey's directing credits include The Comedy of Errors at last summer's Illinois Shakespeare Festival, and he also worked as an actor at the ISF in The Taming of the Shrew and Titus Andronicus.

For ticket information, click here or call 309-556-3232 for the IWU School of Theatre Arts Box Office.

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