1776 Auditions  

Hello and Welcome From Marriott Theatre!

Please read all audition information before submitting! Video submissions will be due FEBRUARY 5th at 11:59pm CT. Please submit via our Google Form found HERE

Videos must be received as an unlisted Youtube link or Vimeo link.

Callbacks: In-person callbacks will be in Lincolnshire, IL during the days of  February 20th - 22nd. Please indicate on the form if you are not available during those days.

All cast members must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to appear at an in-person callback and be cast in the show.  “Fully vaccinated,” as defined by the CDC, is more than 14 calendar days following receipt of a final dose of an FDA or World Health Organization authorized or approved vaccine.

Production Dates 

First Rehearsal: August 1st, 2024

First Preview: August 21st, 2024

Opening: August 28th, 2024

Close: October 13th, 2024

1776 Creative Team & Who Will View Submissions

Director: Nick Bowling (He/Him)

Associate Director: DeRon Williams (He/Him)

Choreographer: Tanji Harper (She/Her)

Dramaturg: Carol Ann Tan (She/Her)

Music Director: Ryan T. Nelson (He/Him)

Executive Producer: Peter Blair (He/Him)

Artistic Director: Peter Marston Sullivan (He/Him)

Associate Artistic Director: Katie Johannigman (She/Her)

Interim Artistic Associate: Annie Yokom (She/Her)

Artistic Coordinator: Kavin Moore, CSA (He/They)

Please reach out to Kavin Moore at Kavin.Moore@MarriottTheatre.com or 847-465-1326 ex. 1  if you have any questions or access needs.

Note from the Directing team: 


1776 is about American history - a musical set inside the room where things happened, exploring the compromises and painful decisions it took to reach a consensus on independence and the subsequent war which led to the creation of our country. Whatever we feel about the successes or failures of the people in that room, the fact that they were able to come to a consensual resolution is incredible.  

With a complicated election around the corner, it’s more important than ever to understand how our country and leaders have historically found ways to move forward in spite of our differences.  I hope this musical will give insight to these men and women who helped create this country. I also hope it will help to dispel some taught myths that many Americans have held onto in order to continue deifying our founding fathers.

In researching the play, I was surprised to learn the continental congressmen from the north were as complicit in the slave trade as the south. Not just economically dependent upon it as this musical explores, but also as owners of slaves. It pushed me to dig deeper into the history of the people represented in the show and I hope this production will do the same for the artists and audiences who engage in it.  

You’ll notice that each character’s detailed biographies have information about their relationship to slavery.   

The commitment to exploring history and character really appeals to me (1776 has a serious book. It contains perhaps the longest scene uninterrupted by music, in any musical - 30 minutes in fact.)   I should add that the musical doesn’t get all of the history right, of course, whether that was because of the biases of the time when it was written, the ignorance of the author or the benefit of storytelling. But we will be digging deep with the help of our dramaturg, Carol Ann Tan. 

To understand this story and these men, we believe that it is important to explore them through a cast that looked more like our modern-day congress, through a more diverse lens, not to change, fix or erase them, but to reveal and understand them in new ways.  So we ask you to submit for roles you’d like to explore. We do plan to cast the two women in the show with female identifying actors. 

The actors playing the congress and the men in the show will be asked to bring their POV to the role - but will always be playing white men in the 18th century.  We expect to lift up the identity of the actor, not pretend they aren’t who they are, but to let them live beside or inside the role. These characters will not live in the familiar cliches of past productions but in a fresh modern gray area where the search for the role (the balance between actor and character) will be the crux of the work.  Our goal will be to explore these men and their world in 1776 as it really was. Not to enshrine, or make heroes of them, but to reveal their challenges, their flaws, their privileges and motivations, their actions and feelings as well as their incredible sacrifices and contributions. 

We are given words and scenes that were written over 50 years ago. In that original musical comedy production of 1776, the motive was to humanize these characters.  That is the grounds on which we will build.

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN

Preparation: Prepare the material for the character(s) you would like to submit for.

Click/Tap the character name(s) to view all scenes and music. Please submit via our Google Form found HERE. Videos must be received as an unlisted Youtube link or Vimeo link.



John Hancock, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (39): President of the 1776 Continental Congress, He was pro-independence. An incredibly wealthy man who was despised by King George.   It is said he signed his name so large to make sure the King saw it.  He was by all accounts a bright, Harvard graduate. Longtime Governor of Massachusetts. While Hancock may have made the distinction that he never bought or sold slaves, it does seem he inherited slaves from his uncle, so he was a slave owner.  In some ways, he is the most powerful and so most comfortable man in the room. He doesn’t need to try to win anything since his job is to lead without prejudice.  


Dr. Josiah Bartlett, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (46): A New Hampshire delegate, Dr. Josiah Bartlett served as a medical doctor in Concord, New Hampshire for over 50 years.  He was a strong advocate for temperance (abstinence of alcohol) as well as an early abolitionist against slavery.  He was one of the largest donors to the abolitionist cause in New Hampshire and yet it is clear that he was a slave owner. Bartlett “made the rafters shake with the loudness of his approval.” On July 4th, he was also the first to vote in favor of adopting the Declaration of Independence (as the roll was called geographically from north to south among the then thirteen colonies), calling it “the greatest state paper ever conceived by the mind of man.” He had 10 children and in 1790 he became the first governor of New Hampshire.  President Josiah Bartlet, from the drama series WEST WING, is a fictional character depicted as a descendant of the Declaration of Independence signatory. He could perhaps be an inspiration for his personality.  


Abigail Adams, she/her, open to all ethnicities, (32): Wife of John Adams, she was one of the most powerful and influential woman of her century.   She managed a farm and a family for several years on her own. While she makes a joke in the musical that Adams rarely asks for her opinion, in truth she was his primary advisor. She was also an advocate against slavery and for women’s rights - pushing the congress to “remember the ladies” when it came time for equality and voting rights. Her marriage to Adams is her foray into politics, but she developed relationships with Jefferson and Franklin as well and advised them too. She is the most modern character in the musical. She knows her husband is “obnoxious and disliked” but she doesn’t care because she respects him and he, her. They love each other enormously – enough to challenge each other.  Mezzo/Soprano


John Adams, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities,(41): Patriot. A Massachusetts delegate, John Adams is the leading voice for separation from England and the Declaration of Independence. He is an abolitionist who never owned slaves.  He’s a hot headed uncompromising man and a bit of a know it all.  He is willing to be disliked but he would not want to be disrespected. He is fed up with the congress at the very beginning of the show. When he is alone with his wife - we learn his about his insecurities and his dependence on her - in fact their relationship is the heart of the show.  She is who teaches him about the art of compromise.  Originally a Bari-Tenor. 

 

Stephen Hopkins, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (70): A Rhode Island delegate from a prominent family who were original settlers of Rhode Island. He was a brilliant scholar, a governor of Rhode Island, and later, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Throughout his life he was the owner of at least 7 slaves.   Adams is quoted as saying, his “custom was to drink nothing all day nor till Eight O Clock, in the Evening, and then his Beveredge was Jamaica Spirit and Water. ... Hopkins never drank to excess, but all he drank was immediately not only converted into Wit, Sense, Knowledge and good humour, but inspired us all with similar qualities." He believes the way to win the fight toward independence is humor and patience - two thing Adams doesn’t possess.  

 

Roger Sherman, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (55): A Connecticut delegate, Roger Sherman sides in favor of independence and is on the committee to write the Declaration. Famous for his anti-slavery stance but he also owned slaves.  He was a Puritan who had 15 children.  He had no formal education but rose to be a prominent politician and mayor of New Haven. Since he came from a state with a small population, he repeatedly proposed and eventually won a compromise where one house had representation proportional to the population, and the other had equal representation for the states.  Sherman was considered a "terse, ineloquent speaker.” In the show he calls himself “a simple cobbler” and claims no ability to write well. 

 

Lewis Morris, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (50): A wealthy New York delegate from a prominent family, Lewis Morris was a major general in the New York Militia. His family governed Bronx County in NY. His brother, who was a general in the British army, advised him not to sign the declaration, to which he replied "Damn the consequences. Give me the pen."  He owned a reported 66 slaves. He abstained from all of the voting due to an absence of direction from the New York legislator. While other politicians would have taken advantage of having no direction from their state legislature, Morris (in the play) is a New Yorker, rendered inert, and that says a lot about who he is. 

 

Robert Livingston, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (30): Another  New York delegate, Robert Livingston is a member of the committee assigned to write the Declaration. Livingston graduated from King's College in June 1765 and was admitted to the bar in 1773. In the show,he has to leave to go be with his wife and new born child. He was the first United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs and later, was Chancellor of New York. He was a slave owner and also involved in brothels and the sex trade.  He was later Minister to France and  helped advance the US in agriculture and the arts.


Reverend John Witherspoon, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (53): A New Jersey delegate, the Reverend John Witherspoon, was a Scottish-American Presbyterian minister, educator, farmer and slaveholder. He later served as the President of (what is today)  Princeton University for many years and argued for, and won, the inclusion of “The Supreme Being” in the Declaration. He was the only active clergyman and the only college president to sign the Declaration. Witherspoon argued for the revolutionary right of resistance and recommended checks and balances within government. He made a profound impression on his student, James Madison, whose suggestions for the United States Constitution followed Witherspoon's ideas. 

 

Benjamin Franklin, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (60-70): A Pennsylvania delegate, Benjamin Franklin is the wise, old sage…cool headed and always a few steps ahead of almost everyone else.  Revered by the world already at this point as an editor, author, inventor, scientist, scholar, philosopher, politician, diplomat, and benefactor, it is clear he will go down as the most famous of the revolutionaries.  He’s the funniest and most likable man in the room – but make no bones about it, Franklin is out for his own posterity as much as anything else. He doesn’t need to work very hard because everyone respects him. His humor and fame gain him favor and he never pushes his agenda too hard - as opposed to a Adams. He gently advises Adams to no avail. Throughout the years, Franklin owned seven slaves.  His views on slavery remained complicated, with his newspapers publishing Quaker antislavery adverts as well as information on purchasing and selling slaves. 

 

John Dickinson, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (44): A Pennsylvania delegate, John Dickinson was from an extremely wealthy family and owned as many as 50 slaves, many or all of whom he eventually freed.  He later became president of both Delaware and Pennsylvania.  He was known as the "Penman of the Revolution" for his twelve Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1767) which sparked the colonists rights and in some ways helped provoke the revolution, even though he believed that the problems of the colonists could be worked out and negotiated with the king. In 1776, he leads a group of Congress members who favor petitioning King George III with their grievances rather than declaring independence from England. He is seen as the antagonist of the play, but he believes that the country is not ready to properly govern itself yet.  He either abstained or was absent from the vote on the Declaration of Independence and refused to sign the document after its passage. Nevertheless, Dickinson wrote the first draft of the 1776–1777 Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union and served as a militia officer during the Revolution. Does not fight FOR slavery but doesn’t oppose it.  Jane Calvert has argued that Dickinson was an early feminist, partly attributable to Quaker culture. He believed that women were spiritually equal to men and deserved equal religious rights. Dickinson proposed the first gender inclusive language in an American constitution. He is sharp, clever and not afraid to speak his mind. He doesn’t have the obvious fiery passion of Adams but when provoked, he can be a dangerous man. 

 

James Wilson, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (33): A Pennsylvania delegate, James Wilson was born in Scotland and went to university there. In the play, he casts the final vote to approve the Declaration, not because of his own belief in the cause, but because he does not want to be remembered in history as “the man who prevented American independence.”  He might seem like a milquetoast but in truth he was strongly on the side of revolution. He is representing a few real people here who were waffling delegates from Pennsylvania; less convinced and likely more influenced by the powerful Dickinson.  James Wilson is on the record as opposing slavery during his life. That being said, he actually did own one slave for twenty-six years. His name was Thomas Purcell. In 1974, after Wilson's death, his wife is reported to have freed Purcell.

 

Caesar Rodney, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (48): A Delaware delegate, Caesar Rodney’s English ancestry has been documented back to 1095. In his family tree is Sir Henry Seymour, whose sister, Jane Seymour, became the third wife of Henry VIII.  Caesar was the eldest of eight children. At seventeen when his father died, he assumed the responsibility of caring for his mother and siblings and managing the family plantation. Caesar never married and left no children. In 1776, he works hard for independence, despite the fact that he is suffering from skin cancer and asthma. He experienced expensive, painful, and futile medical treatments on the cancer.  John Adams described him as “the oddest looking Man in the World... tall—thin and slender as a Reed—pale—his Face is not bigger than a large Apple. Yet there is Sense and Fire, Spirit, Wit and Humour in his Countenance." At his death he owned 15 slaves. 

 

Colonel Thomas McKean, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (42): A Delaware delegate, he was a lawyer and politician. Colonel Thomas McKean was an outspoken Scotch Irishman and was a bold proponent of independence, so much so that the British army targeted him.  Over the course of the following years, he was forced to relocate his family five times. In the show, McKean is portrayed as a gun-toting, cantankerous old Scot who cannot get along with the wealthy and conservative planter George Read. In truth, McKean and Read belonged to opposing political factions in Delaware but were friends. McKean was not a Scottish immigrant. His parents were Irish Presbyterians ("Scots-Irish") He later served as 2nd governor of Pennsylvania. He did not own slaves. He is perhaps the loudest and most boisterous person in the room. 


George Read, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (43): A conservative Delaware delegate, George Read was a strong opponent of his fellow delegates Caesar Rodney and Thomas McKean, believing that the colonists should continue trying to negotiate with the king. He was also a very close friend of McKean.  It was because of him that Ceasar Rodney had to return from his sick bed and vote for independence to break the Delaware deadlock.  However, when the Declaration of Independence was finally adopted, Read signed it despite his cautious concerns. 


Samuel Chase, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (35): A Maryland delegate, Chase initially sides with Dickinson. In June, 1766, Chase was accused of being: "a busy, reckless incendiary, a ringleader of mobs, a foul-mouthed and inflaming son of discord and faction, a common disturber of the public tranquility". In his response, Chase accused the accusers of "vanity...pride and arrogance", and of being brought to power by "proprietary influence, court favor, and the wealth and influence of the tools and favorites who infest this city."  He spent most of his life living and working as a lawyer in Annapolis and Baltimore. Later he was appointed by George Washington to be a Supreme Court Justice.  In 1804, Chase was impeached by the House of Representatives (led by then President Thomas Jefferson) on grounds of letting his partisan leanings affect his court decisions, but was acquitted the following year by the Senate and remained in office. He is the only United States Supreme Court Justice to have ever been impeached. His nickname was “old bacon face.” He was a conservative federalist and was concerned about a president becoming too powerful, like a monarch. Like many of the founding fathers, Chase religiously disagreed with slavery, yet was an enslaver.  Throughout the show, Chase is always eating. 


Richard Henry Lee, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (45): A Virginia delegate, Richard Henry Lee came from a line of military officers, diplomats, and legislators. His father was the governor of Virginia.  The Lee name was synonymous with wealth, land ownership, and influence. Like his forebears, he dedicated much of his life to public service. Unlike them, he became one of the most determined radicals of his time. Richard Henry Lee entered the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758, and was immediately recognized as the most talented speaker in that body. But he was, despite his name and family connections, something of an outsider. Although his is portrayed as a bit of a large child in the play, he was considered elegant.  He was the youngest son so therefore did not stand to inherit the family fortune. Lee called politics the “science of fraud,” yet he never had any real profession other than politics. He was a radical and a great debater and helped convince many Virginian conservatives to join the revolution. He was an ally of Adams. He came from a wealthy family of slave holders and he certainly held slaves. But unlike some of the other congressmen, Lee relied on his small congressional salary for a living. Payment was irregular and he was often in financial distress.  In 1748, at 16, Lee left Virginia for Yorkshire, England, to complete his formal education at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield. In 1776, he is full of good humor and a glass-half-full kind of guy.  He is so happy he often misses the details of what’s going on around him.  

 

Thomas Jefferson, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (33): A Virginia delegate, Thomas Jefferson, was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, inventor, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He was born to a wealthy landowner and he owned over 600 slaves in his lifetime.  He was a man of relentless curiosity—fascinated by the world around him, always learning from what he encountered, and never saying no to the call for public service.  He was governor of Virginia at 36. He founded the U of a Virginia. He was also known for being a skilled writer and a persuasive orator. Jefferson was passionate about his beliefs and was dedicated to the principles of liberty, democracy, and individual rights. However, he was also known to be reserved and somewhat aloof in his personal interactions. He was known for making promises that he couldn’t keep.  In the show, despite his many protests, he is selected to pen the Declaration of Independence. He is considered a liberal of his time. He is both friends and political rivals with Adams. He was a soft-spoken man, but a cunning orator and leader. 

 

Martha Jefferson, she/her, open to all ethnicities  (27): The wife of Thomas Jefferson, Martha had an interest in horse-back riding, literature, and music.  She had already had two children by the summer of 1776. The couple's letters to one another were burned, though by whom is unknown, and Thomas rarely spoke of her, so she remains a somewhat enigmatic figure. In the play, she has been brought to Philadelphia by Adams to help relieve Jefferson’s writer’s block. She handles the meeting of the two most powerful men in America (Adams and Franklin) like a champ, never missing a beat with either. She unashamedly references her sex life. Again this woman is much less traditional than the men around her. Martha will die in childbirth when she is 33 after having given birth to 5 other children.  Mezzo/Soprano

 

Joseph Hewes, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (46): A North Carolina delegate, Joseph Hewes was a native of New Jersey and raised a Quaker. In the play he sides with Rutledge on the slavery issue, demanding the Declaration allow slavery. Adams recalls many years later that the whole decision of independence stood on his shoulders.  Some have suggested this was not accurate. It seems that Hewes always knew it would come to revolution not because that was the best way but because a reunion with Great Britain seemed impossible. Business tax records for 1774 show that Hewes, along with his business partner and nephew, Nathaniel Allen, enslaved sixteen Black men and women. He later became heavily involved with the naval forces.  

 

Edward Rutledge, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities (26): A South Carolina delegate, Edward Rutledge studied law in London. He became a leading citizen of Charleston. He owned more than 50 enslaved people. He worked to have African Americans expelled from the Continental Army. He opposed the Declaration of Independence because of his passionate disagreement with the document’s call for an end to slavery. The youngest delegate, he’s there because of his wealth. Sings a song about slavery with the message that the north is just as involved in slavery as the south - that slavery is the reason they are wealthy and powerful. He is the youngest congressman and he wields a lot of power. He must be intimidated by the wisdom and experience in this room but he doesn’t show it. 

 

Dr. Lyman Hall, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities (52): A Georgia delegate, Dr. Lyman Hall, a one time minister who studied divinity at Yale, was fired due to some kind of confessed immoral conduct (this is an interesting thing. Not much is known about what he did.) He later became a physician and statesman. He is the newest arrival to congress and was sent to vote against independence. In truth, he arrived earlier than in the play, and he was a non-voting participant in the congress.   A year later, he was made an official voting representative and signed the declaration. In the play, he is initially taken aback by the bold familiarity of the congressmen but he eventually finds his voice and a backbone. He votes on his own for independence. It is unclear if he owned slaves but it appears that he did not.  He later became the governor of Georgia. He advocated for the creation of a university in Georgia because he believed education (particularly religious) would result in a more virtuous citizenry.  


Charles Thomson, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities, (47): Irish born and raised, he was the only Secretary of the Continental Congress for its entire fifteen years, and a tremendous unifying factor. He kept the minutes of all sessions of Congress, including special minutes of all the secret affairs. His journals and files became the archives of our nation.  In 1750 he was a tutor in Latin for the Philadelphia Academy (later the U of Penn.)  He designed a Great Seal for the United States and after some modification it was made official.  John Adams called him the Samuel Adams of Philadelphia. He took a direct role in the conduct of foreign affairs...one person called him the Prime Minister of the US.  He was the secretary and took the minutes - which ended up being a dangerous job - because congressmen felt they were misquoted.  It appears he did not own slaves. Thomson seems like a by the book kind of guy, but as he becomes more involved in Washington’s correspondences, we see his emotional side which has a certain fragility to it. Like McNair, he probably knows a lot that’s going on behind the scene because he is sometimes treated like he’s just a secretary and many things are revealed in his presence. 


Andrew McNair, open to all gender expressions and ethnicities (50): The custodian and bell-ringer.  He is a real person.  We get the sense that McNair is the only person attending all these very difficult and demanding men.  He is patient to a point. He’s been around these men for so long that he’s become very familiar with them.  He is a watcher, treated like a second class citizen, but he probably knows more about what’s happening behind the scenes than anyone. He died on September 15, 1776 - just a few months after the signing.


A Courier, Black, (15-20): This character is a creation of the authors although there were couriers who made deliveries of messages etc.  Although it is not stipulated as such by the script, we would like the courier to be a young black man, since there were many black soldiers serving in the army.  It was obviously a very dangerous and important job since it served as the only means to get information to the congress.  Official diplomatic couriers only began a year after the signing - Peter Parker being the first. In 1776, the courier has been on the battleground, and he is in trauma throughout most of the play.  He sings a song about the tragedy of war.  He is young, impressionable, taken by the fame of the congressmen but also in such a state of trauma that he is not always able to register what’s going on. Tenor.



Each role will be understudied. 

Please reach out to Kavin Moore at Kavin.Moore@MarriottTheatre.com or 847-465-1326 ex. 1  if you have any questions or access needs.

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