2007-10-26 / Community

Rockaway Theatre Company Reenacts Flushing Remonstrance

On Sunday, October 14, a group of actors from the Rockaway Theatre Company had the honor of presenting a one-act play telling the story of the signing of the historic Flushing Remonstrance. The Flushing Remonstrance is considered by many to be a precursor to the provision in the U.S Constitution on religious freedom found in our Bill of Rights. This year marks the 350th anniversary of the signing of the remonstrance, which has been brought back to Queens under the protection of armed State troopers, from its vault at the New York State archives in Albany.

The remonstrance was originally written and signed in the Dutch colony of New Netherland (now part of Queens, New York), by a group of English citizens who were affronted by persecution of Quakers and the religious policies of the Governor of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant had formally banned all religions other than the Dutch Reformed Church from being practiced in the colony.

Among the notable historic figures who placed their signatures on the remonstrance and suffered the consequence of imprisonment were Edward Hart, Tobias Feake and John Bowne, who compounded his crime by allowing Quakers to meet in his house. Bowne was sentenced to banishment to Holland, where he petitioned the directors of the Dutch West India Company, who agreed to support him and advised Stuyvesant by a letter (1663) that he was to end religious persecution in the colony. One year later, in 1664, the colony fell to British control.

By the invitation of Jim Driscoll of the Queens Historical Society, a troupe of actors from The Rockaway Theatre Company appeared at the historic Quaker Meeting House and performed an original one-act play written by RTC Artistic Director, John Gilleece. The play recreates the ceremonial signing, as well as the events which took place prior and subsequent to it. The cast consisted of Walter Costello as Governor Peter Stuyvesant, John Gilleece as Edward Hart, Town Clerk of Flushing, Michael McKenny as John Bowne and Nicole Mangano as the lovely Mrs. Bowne. Town Magistrates Edward Farrington and William Noble were portrayed by Vincent Hoban and Joseph Canizio respectively, accompanied by Najat Arkadan and Jodee Timpone in the roles of their good wives. Arrests were made by Matthew Smilardi, who played a Dutch soldier. The play was performed at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and audience members commented that the performance of this original RTC docudrama was "brilliant."

The Flushing Remonstrance will remain on display at the Queens Public Library on Main Street in Flushing until the end of this month, at which time it will be returned to its home in Albany.

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