In the fall of 1775 following the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Continental Army had laid siege to Boston. While the redcoats held Boston proper, the Continentals controlled most of the surrounding area: their goal was thus to barricade the half-mile-wide neck of land which connected Boston to the mainland, thereby bottling in the British. By the time British General William Howe received orders from London to burn Boston and head to New York, winter had arrived, and he decided to keep his troops settled in the city for the winter. The stalemate was more advantageous to them: Howe hoped the Americans would run out of supplies and be forced to give up their siege.
In the midst of these horrors of war, wrote the lady of one British officer from Boston during the blockade, we endeavor as much as possible to forget them (qtd. Willard 255). Temporary means of escape for British officers, their companions and wealthy Tory sympathizers in the city included music, balls, recreational horse riding and theatre (McCullough 74). The British had commandeered a number of prominent Boston buildings for these pursuits, including Faneuil Hall, which had been converted into a very elegant play-house, as the same officer's wife had described it (qtd. Willard 255). Regular theatrical offerings included a range of British plays, such as Susanna Centlivre's The Busybody, Nicholas Rowe's Tamerlane, and Aaron Hill's adaptation of Voltaire's Zara (J. Brown 24). In addition, British audiences saw numerous afterpieces and short sketches, including playwright-turned-general John Burgoyne's anti-colonist farce entitled The Boston Blockade, a notorious performance to which I will return later.
[...] Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006. Brown, Abram English. Faneuil Hall and Faneuil Hall Market. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1900. Brown, Jared. The Theatre in America During the Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Burgoyne, John. A Vaudevil: Sung by the Characters at the Conclusion of a New Farce, called The Boston Blockade [microform]. Boston: Printed by John Howe, 1776. Evans Early American Imprints 15195. Carlson, Marvin A. The Haunted Stage: Theatre as Memory Machine. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001. Elam, Keir. [...]
[...] Furthermore, another reason Faneuil Hall was chosen as a theatre space must have been its centrality in the public eye, especially that of the disapproving Bostonians. The British had certainly taken note of Boston's generally anti- theatrical sentiment; as one redcoat lieutenant had observed, the city's denizens were “too puritanical a set to admit of such lewd Diversions, tho' ther's perhaps no town of its size cou'd turn out more whores than this cou'd” (qtd. Silverman 291). Producing plays twice a week in one of the largest and most well-known spaces in the city afforded the British multiple opportunities to flout the colonists' own anti-theatrical edicts right in front of their noses. [...]
using our reader.