ORONO, Maine — “The Hessian Officer in America,” an entertaining play from 1783 with Maine ties, is set to be performed in Orono.
The play depicts a slice of history since Hessian troops actually were stationed at Fort George, today’s Castine, at the end of the Revolutionary War from 1782 to 1783. The Hessian units in Maine were from Braunschweig (Brunswick) and from Ansbach-Bayreuth, Germany.
Written by Johann August Weppen more than 200 years ago, the play was
published in Gottingen, Germany, and depicts the American Revolution through the eyes of the Enlightenment.
A young Hessian officer; a rich, intelligent young German-American woman and her handsome brother are at the center of the story. An ensuing love story, a deception and a dangerous skirmish between two opposing armies enter the mix. In the end, love conquers all. The play weaves a dream of equality and the eternal emotions of loyalty and love into this lighthearted look at the American Revolution.
The cast consists of area students, actors and actresses who will don period costumes for the production. The play is being produced in Castine in cooperation with the Castine Historical Society and Maine Maritime Academy. It is supported by a grant from the Maine Humanities Council.
This will be the first time the play has been produced in English.
Anette Ruppel Rodrigues was doing research on the Hessians in Maine at the New York Public library in 1996 when she first ran across the play.
She contacted Bangor Public Library to see if staff could help obtain a copy, which was found finally at the University of Pennsylvania Library. She subsequently learned that only nine libraries in the world have the original play in German.
Rodrigues, a German translator as well as adjunct German faculty member at the University of Maine, translated the play into English.
“The Hessian Officer in America” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept 16, at Hauck Auditorium, Memorial Union, University of Maine. Tickets are $10 adults, $5 students, and are available at BookMarc’s on Harlow Street in Bangor. They will be available at Hauck Auditorium the evening of the performance. Proceeds will benefit the Maine Forest & Logging Museum at Leonard’s Mills in Bradley.