Mason Community Players perform original musical for bicentennial
Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer
William Mason may have died in 1830, but he recently came to life on stage.
The Mason Community Players performed an original musical titled “Imagine! Mason” April 9-12 at Mason Middle School. The play was a chronicle of the life and times of William Mason, the founder of the City of Mason.
According to Mason Community Players Head of the Communications Committee Lara Gonzalez, the musical was created as part of the bicentennial celebration.
“The show is about Major William Mason,” Gonzalez said. “The City of Mason is named after him. It starts right around the Revolutionary War and continues up, as the bicentennial might indicate, (to) when the city was founded.”
“Imagine! Mason” is originally written and scored by playwright John Miller, in collaboration with Stephanie Taylor on the music and lyrics. According to Miller, the play was contracted directly with the city.
“This musical was a commissioned work by the City of Mason, the City Council, the Historical Society and the Bicentennial Celebration Committee,” Miller said. “This musical is basically an advertisement for the city…In November 2014, a contract was signed with the city.”
Gonzalez said Miller and the city went through several negotiations in order to put the play on.
“They’ve donated the space and most of the publicity and we’ve aligned on a budget that we’re spending,” Gonzalez said. “We’re basically providing the actors and the artistic expertise to take a work in progress and put it as a final production for the first time.”
Miller was approached five years ago via the Mason Community Players to put something together for the bicentennial. Ever since, he said he devoted years to research, combing through letters and correspondences between William Mason and his family.
“Between 70 to 75 percent of the script is historically accurate,” Miller said. “There are some sections which I had to conduce or present a possible answer…Sort of like, ‘If this happened and this happened, then this must have happened.’”
Miller said that a lot goes into writing a historically accurate show, especially in creating an authentic score to match the time period.
“You think about colonial music: harpsichord, recorders, chamber music,” Miller said. “That’s the sound of the period…The sound that I had to present to them, it’s not going to be a huge orchestra. The sound is going to be very primitive and there’s a lot of a capella…You have to focus in on the music of the period.”
William Mason, who purchased a plot of land that is now downtown Mason, was an ordinary man, according to Miller. Due to duplicate names within the state of Ohio, the original city of Palmyra was converted to Mason to honor William Mason. Miller said he believes that Mason’s ordinary lifestyle, mixed with his passion for politics, is what appeals to audience members.
“William Mason, being basically just one of thousands of people in the same situation: in Pennsylvania, a very rough, open settlement, fighting in the American revolution,” Miller said. “The thing of it is, he’s a normal person and the focus is being put on him…He was also a problem solver, which someone at that time had to be, because they’re coming into this area with a handful of tools and you had to solve all your other problems and build everything yourself…That’s what kind of intrigued me.”
Though the musical was created for the bicentennial celebration of the City of Mason, Miller said the appeal will extend beyond Mason citizens.
“I have to try to make it interesting,” Miller said. “One of my goals (is that) people from outside who have no connection with Mason or Cincinnati could come enjoy the play, learn about Mason–I kind of trick you into learning a little bit–and you’ll go out humming the songs…It’s an enjoyable show, even if you have no Mason ties whatsoever. You can enjoy it and learn a lot.”