In John Reheuser’s mind, Benedict Arnold is a hero. At least he was during the summer of 1777.
Reheuser, a Queens native and longtime Scotia resident, plays the young general in “Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama,” an adaptation of the Walter Edmonds’ novel being performed at the Gelston Castle Estate in Mohawk over the next two weekends.
“This was when he was on the side of the Colonials,” said Reheuser, referring to Arnold’s bravery during the Saratoga campaign of 1777 and not his betrayal of American forces later during the war. “This role has nothing to do with the other part of his life when he changed sides.”
‘Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama’
WHERE: Gelston Castle Estate, 980 Robinson Road, Mohawk
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and Aug. 8-9
HOW MUCH: $15-$10 (plus $15 parking fee per car)
MORE INFO: www.datmod.com
The story of Gil and Lana Martin, a young couple heading west in the Mohawk Valley to start a new life at the time of the American Revolution, “Drums Along the Mohawk” is based on actual history that took place in upstate New York during that time. A 1939 movie with Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert popularized the story, which is set in central New York near what is today Herkimer.
Reheuser, who played a minor role in the initial production produced by Kyle Jenks in 2012, also plays another character, Colonel Cox, in this year’s show.
“He’s an American militia member who has a disrespectful conversation with General Herkimer, and as soon as he steps on stage for the next scene he gets shot dead,” said Reheuser.
“But I come back as Benedict Arnold, and there’s a costume change and a personality change. Colonel Cox was kind of arrogant, and with General Arnold I try to act more dignified. I believe Arnold was somewhat of an upper middle class type, so I try to make him sound more refined than Colonel Cox.”
David DeFazio of Amsterdam plays Gil Martin and Ness Stark, also from Amsterdam, plays Lana.
Jenks, who wrote the stage production and is directing the show, has added music, including a song written by Reheuser called “Flintlock Totin’ Soldier.”
“It summarizes the play in seven verses, and it will probably be played before or after, not during the play,” said Reheuser. “I was hoping Kyle would let me sing it in the show itself. It’s the same tune as ‘Pistol Packin’ Mama.’ ”
Reheuser, who is retired after working in the Corning Tower for 25 years, only started acting in 2009. He’s been busy since that time, working in 18 productions, many of them for the Classic Theater Guild in Schenectady.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I never had the nerve or the opportunity at the same time until I retired,” he said.