March 2, 1789

On March 2, 1789, Pennsylvania ended its ban on theatrical performances, along with other forms of expensive entertainment. It appears that the Quakers of Pennsylvania were as tight-assed and unloving of fun as the Puritans of Massachusetts were. In 1774 the first Continental Congress banned all the theatre as well as ‘other expensive diversions and entertainments’. The Continental Congress was afraid that the theatre would be a distraction during the war efforts and would lead to ‘mischievous effects’ on the citizens of Pennsylvania. This changed in 1789 when Ren McCormack moved to Pennsylvania with his mother and tried to start a local theatre dedicated to Shakespeare. But he was told by the Pennsylavian elders that Shakespeare and the theatre were verboten. Well, Ren met and fell for a local preacher’s daughter, Ariel Moore. To show her that theatre wasn’t evil and of the devil, he took her to New York, and they went and saw the Shakespearian play ‘As You Like It’. They tried to see ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, but it was sold out, so they had to settle for the lesser known play, but she still loved it. When her father, Reverand Shaw Moore found out, he lost it and forbid her from seeing Ren. Ariel wanted to know why Reverand Shaw was against the theatre, and her mother explained to her that he had been frightened by a Punch and Judy show when he was a young lad of 33. Ariel agreed that those puppets were truly hideous, but Shakespeare was no puppet show. Later, Reverand Shaw witnessed some of his congregation beating and throwing rotten vegetables at a travelling Shakespearian company, and he had an epiphany. There were no scary puppets. There were no mimes. Pennsylvania could have theatre, and that’s how Pennsylvania came to reverse its no theatre ban in 1789.

About Joel Byers

Born in North Georgia and educated at some very fine public institutions. Real education started after graduating from college and then getting married and raising two boys. Has the ability to see the funny and absurd in most things and will always remark on it, even if it means getting the stink-eye from his victims.
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