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Original play examines Puritans

WHALLONSBURG - The curtain will soon rise for a new play depicting the lives of some of the first New England colonists in dramatic fashion.

"Asylum 1630" is an original play penned by Westport's Ted Cornell and Carrie Treadwell. A staged reading for Part One of the play is scheduled for June 6, 7 p.m. at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall.

According to Cornell, the project began nearly four decades ago when he was living in New York City as a director of the award-winning New York Shakespeare Festival. He started writing the play with the intent of seeing it produced as a historical drama for television, having already produced one historical drama script for CBS.

"This was a second project that had just gotten off the ground, but was cut off," he explained.

The drama has sat "on the shelf" since then, he said, until Treadwell, an experienced playwright and actor at the Depot Theatre, offered to help finish the play.

"We've worked on it for over a year; sometimes over the internet, sometimes for days at a time," Cornell explained. "I have written other stuff, but I have never written a play that's been performed before."

The multi-part play is still a work in progress, but the first part, an hour and a half long in itself, is finished.

It tells the story of Isaac and Arbella Johnson, financiers of the journey of about 1,000 Puritans who established what would become the Massachusetts Bay colony of 1630. Both Isaac and Arbella were among hundreds who died within the first year in the New World.

"It's very dramatic and exciting," said Cornell, noting how he attempted to bring the story out of the strictly historical realm and focus on the "tribal intensity" the Puritans underwent as they struggled to sustain themselves in an untamed land; struggles so intense they led a peaceful, God-fearing group to criticize each other and take up arms against other English settlers nearby.

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