This weekend at Historic Kenmore, The George Washington Foundation will present three performances of The Lying Valet performed by the Fredericksburg Theatrical Society.
First performed in London in 1741, The Lying Valet was written by David Garrick. “If there was one name to know on the London stage in the 18th century,” as we’ve noted in a previous blog, “it was David Garrick. As a writer and actor, he was synonymous with celebrity” and was one of the leading thespians of the time.
Etching of David Garrick in Hamlet from Dramatic Characters, or Different Portraits of the English Stage, 1773. Public Domain. Credit: Wikipedia
The Lying Valet was performed many times in the British Colonies and perhaps could have even been the very first play that life-long theatre fan George Washington ever saw! As noted in an account ledger he kept, twenty-year-old George saw a play for the first time ever on June 2, 1752 during June Fair in Fredericksburg. June Fair was a annual community gathering where Fredericksburgers and other Virginians sold farm goods and land, settled debts and tried court cases, gambled on horse races, and enjoyed a play. Whatever the play was that Washington saw on that day in 1752, it was performed by the Murray-Kean Company of actors. Intriguingly, The Lying Valet was indeed one of the plays in their repertoire but there is no way to know if the play was performed on that day at June Fair.
The Lying Valet tells the story of William Gayless, who lost all of his money after a series of bad choices. Left only with one chair, Gayless attempts to rectify his situation by marrying the rich young lady Melissa, whom he has come to care for, despite the advice of his servant. Timothy Sharp, Gayless’ lying valet, finds himself weaving a few lies to save face for his master, all the while Kitty Pry, a servant to Melissa, attempts to uncover the truth. One thing leads to another as Sharp finds himself caught on the brink of disaster, and it looks as though Gayless will never have a wedding. Will everything end happily, or will lies, consumption, Frenchmen, drunk cooks, half truths, and a significant lack of funds ruin the whole plot?
This weekend’s performances of They Lying Valet take place at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, October 19 and Saturday, October 20 with a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Sunday, October 21. Admission is $10 for adults and $5.00 for students. Pre-purchase of tickets is not necessary as payment will be taken at the door. The performances take place in the Crowninshield Museum of Historic Kenmore at 1201 Washington Avenue in Fredericksburg.