As the United States prepares to celebrate its birth, a free premiere screening on Friday, June 30, at Hope College’s Knickerbocker Theatre in downtown Holland will highlight the foundational document that has guided the nation for most of the years since.
The second episode in the “Inventing America” television series, titled “Making a Government” and focused on the creation of the U.S. Constitution, will be shown at the Knickerbocker on Friday, June 30, at 8 p.m.
The public is invited. Admission is free, although tickets are required.
“Making a Government” tells the story behind the Constitutional Convention of 1787, four months that changed the world. In the program, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Gouverneur Morris and George Washington discuss the conflicts and compromises that led to creating the world’s most enduring republic. While imagined and presented as a retrospective, the conversation is based on fact, using the Founders’ actual words.
An audience question-and-answer session with members of the production team will follow the screening, with a reception taking place after the Q and A. The episode runs about an hour and the Q and A will be approximately 20 minutes.
Created by Holland resident Milton Nieuwsma, a two-time Emmy Award winner, “Inventing America” is a co-production of Hope College and WGVU Public Media. The series seeks to tell the story of the American republic and apply the Founders’ ideas to the present time. The format is modeled after Steve Allen’s classic “Meeting of Minds” series, which aired on PBS from 1977 to 1981.
Episode 1, “Making a Nation,” focused on the writing of the Declaration of Independence and was filmed at Hope before a live audience in December 2014 in the DeWitt Center main theatre. An early cut was shown at the Knickerbocker Theatre and on WGVU in July 2015, with the finished version distributed to PBS stations nationwide in the summer of 2016 via the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA).
“Making a Government” was filmed at Hope on December 8 and 9, 2016, at the DeWitt Center main theatre. The executive producer is Darell Schregardus. The director is John Tammi, professor emeritus of theatre and the founding artistic director of Hope Summer Repertory Theatre (HSRT). Director of cinematography was Zach Liniewski, a producer/director at WGVU.
Hamilton, Madison and Franklin were portrayed respectively by Hal Bidlack, John Douglas Hall and John Hamant, whose experience in the roles ranges from 20 to 39 years. Morris was portrayed by Tom Bengston, whose acting credits include having appeared on the Hope stage in 2016 in HSRT’s productions of “The Fantasticks” and “Hairspray.” Washington was portrayed by Holland resident Gary Zell. Hamant had also portrayed Franklin in the debut episode filmed in 2014. The moderator of “Making a Government” is Fred Johnson, associate professor of history at Hope.
Both “Making a Nation” and “Making a Government” will be shown on WGVU-HD on Sunday, July 2, at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. respectively, and on WGVU-Life on Monday, July 3, at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively. “Making a Government” has also been made available to PBS stations nationwide for broadcast in conjunction with the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Free tickets for the June 30 showing at the Knickerbocker Theatre may be obtained in advance at the ticket office in the college’s Events and Conferences Office, with any remaining tickets available at the door. Located downtown in the Anderson-Werkman Financial Center at 100 E. Eighth St., the office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be called at (616) 395-7890.
The Knickerbocker Theatre is located at 86 E. Eighth St., between College and Columbia avenues.