(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) — It was a tea-time treat lauded not only for its delicious taste and distinct hint of citrus, but for its potential to launch an industry that could put a small community on the map. But the legendary “Egremont biscuit” instead became an enduring symbol of strife and lost opportunity. The little-understood episode known as the Battle of Egremont is now finally explained in a non-partisan manner.
An imaginative historical “lecture” incorporating period accounts, artwork, and quotes from historical figures ranging from President John Adams to the obscure diplomat George Madison Michael, Battle of Egremont, written and performed by Jeremy D. Goodwin, is a workshop performance presenting an alternate and unconventional history of the split between the villages of North and South Egremont, at New Stage Performing Arts Center (NSPAC), presented as part of the Word X Word Festival as part of a double bill with Phil Johnson’s The Unusual Adventures of Mr. Jib on Tuesday, August 16, at 8.
In early Colonial New England, one brother insults another. The rift divides the community, disrupting its early biscuit-based economy and irrevocably splitting the town of Egremont in two. Or did it? Goodwin posits in this dramatic performance that the reverberations from the now-forgotten incident have traced a subtle but powerful course through American history, from John Adams’ enduring bitterness to the failed treaty talks that could have stopped the War of 1812.
The Battle of Egremont may have left a scar from which we are still healing. This multimedia presentation explores colorful anecdotes that help sketch out this alleged episode and its lingering legacy, from the infamous Trail of Awkward Silence to the “slap heard ‘cross the village.” The gulf that divides North Egremont from South Egremont is a chasm that divides us all from our past. Or perhaps it doesn’t. At what price a delicious biscuit?
“Anyone who’s lived in Egremont can attest to the heavy weight this sorry chapter still exerts upon the community, from the stilted smile of a shopkeep to the weary shrug of a librarian,” Goodwin asserts. “The lingering indignity is still so fresh, I don’t believe I’ve ever even heard anyone in town so much as mention the Battle of Egremont. Nor will most historians admit it even occurred. And good luck finding fresh lemons. It’s time that this story be told.”
“New Stage is concerned with bringing important stories of contemporary relevance to the stage, and we felt this tale was one that needed to be told,” says Nicki Wilson, New Stage’s artistic director. “Jeremy deals with a sensitive issue with nimble-footed grace and good humor. We’re delighted to cast light on the Battle of Egremont, at a time when the community needs it more than ever.”
A writer and independent journalist who has contributed to publications ranging from ARTnews and the Boston Globe to Shakespeare Scene and Berkshire Living, Jeremy D. Goodwin grew up in the shadow of Colonial New England history and has long been entranced by its subtle romance. He was co-editor of the definitive book about rock band Phish (The Phish Companion: A guide to the band and their music) and has written one yet-to-be-published novel. His work most frequently is found in the Berkshire Eagle, where he serves as the paper’s popular music critic. Battle of Egremont made its debut workshop performance as part of Berkshire Creative’s most recent Bar Camp event at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Additional info, including links to Goodwin’s recently published pieces, can be found on his website.
New Stage Performing Arts Center is on the third floor of the Beacon Cinema building (55 North Street) in Pittsfield. The performance begins at 8 p.m. Admission is free, but on a first-come, first-served basis. Seating is cabaret-style, with a cash bar present. No advance ticketing is available. Battle of Egremont is approximately thirty minutes in length, with a question-and-answer period.