The Will

Rehearsal photos taken in 2008, at the historically black resort in Idlewild, Michigan

As we mark the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, “The Will” dramatizes the human consequences of the war as experienced by the Websters, an African American family in a small town in Tennessee.  The Webster sons return from service in the Union army expecting to be treated as full citizens, but they find that victory at home is more elusive than victory on the battlefield. Their father Cyrus Webster is determined to pass on not only his worldly possessions but also his courage and wisdom to his descendants.  Cyrus’s son Israel does not share his father’s faith.  His demand to be treated with the respect due a returning soldier puts his own life at risk.  When the newly-constituted Ku Klux Klan comes to the house looking for Israel, Eliza, Cyrus’s wife, refuses to disclose his whereabouts.  The rebellion of Israel against racial injustice forces Cyrus to act to protect his inheritance in all its dimensions. The play reveals both the conflicts of Reconstruction and the range of African American culture.  (The character of Patti was inspired by the life of Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, a renowned African American opera singer of the Civil War era).

Original stage music composed by Erik Santos.

Premiered at Idlewild, Michigan, 2008; Library of Michigan, Lansing, Michigan; 2012; St. Stephen’s Community Church, Lansing, Michigan, 2013, Plachta Auditorium, University Events Series, Central Michigan University, 2013.


  • Plachta Auditorium, University Events Series, Central Michigan University, 2013.

  • St. Stephen’s Community Church, Lansing, Michigan, 2013.

  • Library of Michigan, Lansing, Michigan, 2012.

  • Idlewild, Michigan, 2008 – The Will Weekend at Idlewild: Classical Connections to African American Culture.

  • University United Methodist Church, East Lansing, Michigan, July, 2001.  Staged reading with music.  Music by: Erik Santos, Composer, Music Faculty, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

  • Riverwalk Theatre, Lansing, Michigan, May 1999. Staged reading.

Statue on Boston Common by Saint-Gaudens honors the 54th Mass, the unit of Black soldiers dramatized in the film "Glory"

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