Theatre Production Explores Rise of Free Press in NY

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Theatre Askew’s production of William M. Hoffman (As Is; Ghosts of Versailles) and Anthony Holland’s Cornbury: The Queen’s Governor is more than an entertaining romp. In relating the story of Lord Cornbury, one of New York’s first governors and a rumored cross-dresser, Theatre Askew is leading an in-depth exploration of how the rise of a free press in colonial New York affected the cultural framework in the city and how the dynamic of that early press compares to the recent rise in new media. A panel entitled “The Buzz in Olde New York” will be hosted in collaboration with The New York Historical Society and will feature public historian Kathleen Hulser, Nicholas F. Benton, publisher and editor of the alternative newspaper The Falls Church News-Press, and new media scholar Chris Anderson.

The panel will discuss the role of a free press in establishing a cultural milieu of NY, while simultaneously perpetuating rumors and political viewpoints, particularly the myth of Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, the English governor of New York and New Jersey, from 1701-1708. A controversial figure, Cornbury was remembered for centuries for his rumored habit of dressing as his first cousin, Queen Anne. The rumor of Cornbury’s cross-dressing was perpetuated through the recently de-regulated press of the day and bears remarkable similarity to the way rumors are now spread about modern political candidates online.

The panel will take place on January 25 at 3:00 p.m., preceding the 5:00 p.m. performance of Cornbury: The Queen’s Governor. Two other panels will include a conversation with a group made up of multiple generations of Queer NY Writers and a discussion about questions of gender inspired by the play. For more information visit:

Details of the gender panel and show:

Cornbury: The Queen’s Governor
At the Hudson Guild Theatre 441 West 26th St., New York, NY
January 24 – February 8, 2009 (no performances 1/27 & 2/3)
Mon., Wed – Sat.: 8:00 p.m.
Sat. Matinee: 2:00 p.m.
Sun. Matinee: 5:00 p.m.

Panel Description: The Buzz in Olde New York – January 25; 3:00 p.m.
The first take on history is defined by the press, which often focuses the lens through which future generations will interpret events and public figures. This panel discusses the impact of an early free press on shaping the myth of Lord Cornbury, the political and cultural evolution of the young city of New York, and how the rise of that early press parallels the advent of alternative media and online journalism practiced today.

About the panelists:

Kathleen Hulser: Kathleen Hulser’s background includes work as a public historian, college teacher, museum administrator, exhibitions curator, public programs director, writer, editor, and media producer. Recent museum projects include such programs & exhibits as: Grant and Lee in War and Peace; Legacies: Contemporary Artists Reflect on Slavery; The Rosenbergs Reconsidered: The Death Penalty in the Cold War Era; Up on the Roof: New York on the Rooftops and Reading Uncle Tom’s Image. Ms. Hulser recently produced New Captivity Narratives, a video installation that juxtaposes modern testimony from the enslaved with classic narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs. In 2007, she produced “The French Revolution, Lafayette and the Guillotine” for the exhibition French Founding Father: Lafayette’s Return to Washington’s America. On iTunes University, you may view her latest production of an iPod tour, “Frederick Douglass and the Underground Railroad in New York.” Ms. Hulser maintains an active leadership role in the public history field by delivering many papers at professional meetings, organizing conferences, guest lecturing, and leading collection initiatives and community collaborations. Ms. Hulser can be seen making public history appearances on CBS, BBC, PBS, History Channel, NY1, Discovery Channel, Paxton Network, and NPR.

Nicholas F. Benton: Nicholas F. Benton is the founder, owner and editor-in-chief of, and national affairs columnist for, the Falls Church News-Press, a Northern Virginia weekly that since 1991 has gained a widespread reputation as the most progressive newspaper in the state. Circulated inside the “Washington D.C. beltway,” it was the only newspaper in Northern Virginia to endorse Barack Obama last year, and its core distribution area provided more than the total margin of victory for Obama statewide, as Virginia went Democratic in a presidential election for the first time since 1964. A native of California and graduate of Westmont College (A.B.) in his Santa Barbara hometown, and the Pacific School of Religion (M.Div.) in Berkeley, Benton was a leading San Francisco Bay-area activist in the earliest post-Stonewall days of the gay liberation movement. As an openly gay and politically active newspaper owner, Benton was named “Businessman of the Year” for 2007 by the Falls Church City Council, which also twice been named his newspaper “Business of the Year” (1991 and 2001). He’s served two terms as president of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, named the recipient of its “Pillar of the Community” award twice (1992 and 2003). Last year, the City Paper in Washington, D.C., named his paper the “Best Remnant of the Liberal Media” in its annual “Best of D.C.” edition.

Chris Anderson: A long-time reporter and editor with New York City Indymedia and The New York Indypendent, Chris Anderson is in his final year of a PhD in communications at Columbia University, where he is studying journalistic authority, media history, and the emergence of new media technologies. Anderson’s dissertation, “Networking the News: Work, Knowledge and Occupational Authority in the New Metropolitan Journalism,” focuses on the impact new technologies are having on the media by examining newsrooms practices used by traditional news organizations, bloggers, and citizen media projects in Philadelphia, Pa. Anderson is the co-author of “News Production and Organizations: Professionalism, Objectivity, and Truth Seeking,” published in the Handbook of Journalism Studies. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Indiana University, a MA and MPhil from Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner Jessica and two mischievous cats.

About the playwright and company: William M. Hoffman (playwright) is best known for his groundbreaking play about the AIDS epidemic, As Is, for which he was nominated for the Tony and Pulitzer Prize and received the OBIE and Drama Desk awards. New York Magazine recently named it one of the most significant New York cultural works of the past 40 years. He also wrote the libretto for the Metropolitan Opera’s The Ghosts of Versailles with music by John Corigliano. Commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in honor of its centennial.

Theatre Askew’s inaugural production, Bald Diva! earned unanimous critical acclaim over its several runs, including a GLAAD Media Award nomination for Outstanding Off-Off Broadway Play and a “Best of 2004” nod from Theater Mania. Their follow-up show was the hit serial I, Claudius Live. Last year they received their second GLAAD Media Award nomination for the world-premiere production of Jason Schafer’s i google myself. For their work on that show, the company was named 2007 People of the Year by

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