The most American of American holidays is at hand, with many traditional Independence Day celebrations on-hold as we try to navigate safely through the perils of the current pandemic. Arts Center Executive Director Kris Pearson and Board member Mike Smith both like to celebrate the Fourth of July with yet another screening of the musical 1776. Based on the 1969 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical (revived on Broadway in 1997 with another planned go-around in 2021), the movie boasts a brilliant cast (who knew William Daniels could sing and dance?) and a sparkling score by Sherman Edwards, who started his musical career as a New Jersey band leader and migrated to NYC’s Brill Building (the center of the pop music industry in the 1960s). It’s a fun, and not too inaccurate, depiction of the trials and tribulations the Founding Fathers faced in deciding to build a new country. (Kris remembers going to see the movie with the entire Minerva Deland seventh grade “back in the day.”) Mike and Kris can quote lines from the movie at the drop of a hat, which generally results in much eye rolling from anyone in the vicinity – at least Mike doesn’t try to sing the lines.

Another one of Kris’ July 4th traditions is reading Michael Shaara’s Pulitizer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels about the Battle of Gettysburg (fought June 30 – July 3, 1863). She says it’s a must read – pretty much the perfect novel. (And while on the topic of the Civil War – not to digress too much – you may have heard retired Army Lt. Col Ralph Peters on the news these days – Kris strongly recommends his book Shadows of Glory, written under the pen name Owen Parry. It’s a Civil War “mystery” novel set in Yates County in the winter of 1861…and, incidentally, a book Kris discovered and purchased during her first visit to Long’s Cards and Books.)

Perhaps the most exciting news for Broadway fans this holiday weekend is the streaming broadcast of the musical Hamilton, which can be seen on the Disney + platform starting July 4th. It’s a filmed performance of the Tony Award-winning play with the original Broadway cast. Arts Center board member George Dornberger, who – lucky dog that he is – had the opportunity to see a live performance of the play, suggests reviewing the lyrics before watching the show. The music moves fast and the lyrics are erudite so having a sense of the history that unfolds throughout the show is helpful. (He found them online.)

These alternative (and creative?) Independence Day activities remind us that art can be informative as well as entertaining and celebratory. Why not give them a try?