The path from royal subjects to citizens of a self-governing
nation is a difficult and precarious journey, as Revolutionary City® so effectively dramatizes.
Modern audiences are enthralled by daily performances and provoked to explore their own roles
as 21st-century citizens. The issues surrounding the American Revolution present timeless
parallels for today’s citizen: royal subjects voice outrage as the government takes away their
rights. Families are torn apart by war. Businesses are accused of wartime profiteering. Enemy
combatants—imprisoned for years without formal charges—are suspected of war crimes. These
challenges and more are explored during the highly successful and compelling interactive
dramatic presentation, Revolutionary City in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.
Begun in 2006, Revolutionary City has been enthusiastically received by Colonial
Williamsburg guests. “This was the best history lesson I’ve ever had—I was part of it, I was a
first-hand witness,” said a summer guest. “It made history so real and enabled you to see
similarities to issues that exist today,” said another. “I felt I was ‘eyewitness’ to our nation’s
history and I understood the impact on ordinary and not-so-ordinary citizens.”
As a two-day event, Revolutionary City connects guests to the emotional and
philosophical climates of the period by presenting the stories of Williamsburg residents from
1774 to 1781 in two alternating two-hour outdoor dramas that take place in their original
“The Collapse of Royal Government: 1774–1776” chronicles developments from May
- 2 -1774 to May 1776 as Great Britain’s King George III and Parliament attempt to tighten control of their unruly colonies in North America but only succeed in offending them further and driving the colonies to rebellion. The Collapse of Royal Government is presented from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
“Citizens At War: 1776–1781” details the trials, tribulations and sacrifices that citizens
endured during the American Revolution from July 1776 to October 1781 as they transformed
their society from one of royal subjects to citizens of an independent Virginia. Citizens At War is
presented from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
In 2008, the Revolutionary City experience is even more entwined with other Historic
Area programming. Revolutionary Stories provides context to scenes in Revolutionary City and
encourages guests to explore other sites in the Historic Area—the Governor’s Palace, the George
Wythe House and the Peyton Randolph House, for example—to expand and enrich their
experience and understanding of Williamsburg’s role as Virginia’s capital city in tumultuous
“Many of the challenges we face today are paralleled in the lives of colonial
Americans—families were torn by war, parents and children argued about what’s right and
wrong and political debates were a daily occurrence,” said Rex Ellis, Colonial Williamsburg’s
vice president of the Historic Area. “By presenting our ancestors’ personal struggles for freedom,
we hope guests will reflect on the liberties we’ve been granted and develop newfound respect for
the benefits of citizenship as well as the responsibility to actively participate in the democratic
Guests are encouraged to follow the lives of the famous and not-so-famous, including the
frustrations of Barbry Hoy as she tries to learn the fate of her husband, Alexander, captured by
the British at Charleston, or Eve, a slave of the Randolphs, or Baptist preacher Gowan Pamphlet
who finds hope for freedom in biblical passages for himself and his fellow enslaved Africans.
“Revolutionary City: Nation Builders,” is presented on Mondays. The weekly program
will explore the lives and individual residents of Williamsburg and their contributions to the
18th-century foundations of the nation.
All Revolutionary City programs activities take place in Colonial Williamsburg’s
Historic Area, where the adventure continues as guests explore the restored and reconstructed
18th-century gardens, trade shops, homes, and public buildings. Admission to Revolutionary
City programs is included with the Colonial Williamsburg general admission ticket.