Our American Identity: Director Penny Metropulos on THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA

“What’s going on outside is enormous,” offered Director Penny Metropulos, delving into the cultural context of this season’s THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA by Richard Nelson. “Protests, battles, meetings of congress, the war raging on – still, the interactions between characters are so personal, so intimate.”

THE GENERAL, first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1996, follows the treasonous plot of Benedict Arnold as he plans his defection and flight from a fledgling United States. Long reviled by most Americans and world historians as a traitor, Arnold’s 1779 struggle with our newborn nation is revisited in this powerful text, exposing “the puritanical hypocrisy and corruption that marched beside the heralded courage of our national beginnings.” (The Village Voice)

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Royal Shakespeare Company’s premiere production of THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA. Photo by Zuleika Henry.

“What I love about this play is its humanism,” Metropulos revealed. “Nelson gives us an intimate, crystalline, personal look at these characters who, for so long, have been larger than life in our minds.” Revolutionary War-era staples such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the malefactor himself, Benedict Arnold, move fluidly between scenes, currying favor of leadership, chiding one another, bemoaning personal circumstance, exposing their own fragility.

Unique to this summer’s production is something HVSF doesn’t usually get to explore with Shakespeare’s works: site specificity. Arnold’s own command at West Point, now known as the United States Military Academy, can be seen from the Theater Tent on the opposite bank of the Hudson. Many of Arnold’s key stops along his escape path lie on HVSF’s side of the river, with historical markers noticeable along local paths and roadways.


“This play is part and parcel of our identity as Americans.”

– Penny Metropulos


“I’m always interested in anything that makes me study harder and it seems like a good time to brush up on American history,” admitted Metropulos.

“This play is part and parcel of our identity as Americans and all the contradictions and complexities therein: our ideas about loyalty to country versus loyalty to our neighbors, feelings of personal dishonor, the fear that our stories and opinions may not be heard, the disillusionment we sometimes feel about our country, and our never ending search for the true meaning of freedom… it’s all here.”


“Good plays and good actors tell stories.”

– Penny Metropulos


Still, Metropulos is quick to assert that she’s not aiming to make a personal statement on stage, but to put on a great show: “I don’t think it’s my place to make assumptions for or about our audience or their politics. Good plays and good actors tell stories. Seeing historical figures in this new light, we very well may question our assumptions about our shared American history.

THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA is in previews August 4 – 7, 2017 and runs August 8 – September 3, 2017. Season tickets go on sale to the public March 15, but members of our Saints & Poets Society (March 8) and Festival Circles (March 1) have early access. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

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One thought on “Our American Identity: Director Penny Metropulos on THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA

  1. Penny Metropulos was a friend of mine at Arlington State College in 1964. I’d love to get in touch with her again. She may email me or calle at 214-460-7806.

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