Reprinted from Hannibal Magazine-March 2019
“I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged that my only regret is that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service.”
It is reportedly with these words that 21-year-old Nathan Hale went to the gallows as the first American spy to die in the service of this new country. A Captain in the Connecticut militia, Hale responded to a call from General Washington for someone to go behind enemy lines on Long Island and report on enemy plans. He was the only volunteer. Within days, he was betrayed by his loyalist cousin Samuel Hale, captured and sentenced to hang as an illegal combatant.
Asking for a pen and paper to compose his dying declaration, Hale was invited into the tent of British Captain John Montressor, a witness to the execution, and the man who carried news of Hale’s death to his family.
In this fictionalized account of Hale’s final hours, playwright David Stanley Ford has juxtaposed the cynicism of Montressor, who has spent an entire career fighting wars for what was then the world’s most powerful country with the naïve optimism of young Hale. The Interrogation of Nathan Hale by Captain John Montressor of HRM Expeditionary Forces is a powerful drama that deeply examines the idealistic underpinnings of the founding of America through the eyes of these two men.
A.S. (Alex) Freeman, who directed last season’s The Sunset Limited returns to Bluff City Theater to direct the first production of the 2019 Season. Freeman is the Artistic Director of Ozark Actors Theater in Rolla, Missouri. The play stars two of St. Louis’ most acclaimed actors, Alan Knoll as John Montressor and up-and-coming Spencer Sickmann as Hale. Knoll was last seen at BCT in the role of Fernand Balboa in Trees Die Standing Tall (2018). This is Sickmann’s debut appearance at Bluff City Theater.
“I chose this play to open our season themed around The American Experience,” said BCT artistic producer Joe Anderson, “because it unflinchingly looks at both the great strengths and the terrible flaws of the country and serves as a measure to America of today.”
In the play, Montressor asks, “Do you know any place where men are free?” To which Hale replies, “Truly free? None. For equality is the necessary condition for freedom.”
Ultimately, audiences can form their own opinion of how America has fared in the 243 ensuing years when compared against the founding ideals, but none can dispute Hale’s assertion, “We must dream a big dream if we are going to dream of America.”
The Interrogation of Nathan Hale plays at Bluff City Theater from March 21st until March 30th. For complete dates and times, go to www.eventshannibal.com. Tickets are $27 pp or may still be purchased as part of a 2019 subscription ($105 for all five regular season productions) or a Four-Ticket Flex Pass ($95 for 4 tickets to any production).