Cover photo by Bob Rush

Gunpowder Joe

Anthony Clarvoe
Book Item Icon $15.95
PDF ePlay Item Icon
Enter total users


Hounded out of his native England, Joseph Priestley hoped to secure a sanctuary along the banks of the Susquehanna. Would this refugee find America, that great experiment, to be the true democracy he had championed from across the sea? Would he finally be free to pursue his religion, his science, and his political beliefs in this new “land of liberty”? Controversy continued to swirl around him. Revolutionary comrades turned into bitter political opponents when it came time to actually govern the country they founded. The immigrant Priestley was drawn into the vortex of America’s first major crisis. “Freedom of Speech” had yet to be tested, and Priestley’s admirers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were engaged in a deeply polarized debate over the fate of our fledgling nation.

Production Info

Cast: 8 total (3 female, 5 male, doubling, bit parts)
Full Length Drama (about 120 minutes)
Minimal Set Requirements
Period Costumes

Press Quotes

“As GUNPOWDER JOE begins, Mary Priestley urges her world-famous husband to flee as a mob approaches their home in Birmingham, England. But the scientist, whose political writings have inflamed his foes previously, isn’t perturbed. ‘It will be fine,’ Joseph Priestley tells his worried wife. ‘They have been content to hang me in effigy for years.’ ‘They may be done pretending,’ Mary retorts. Thus, the world premiere of Anthony Clarvoe’s historical drama — ‘GUNPOWDER JOE: Joseph Priestley, Pennsylvania and the American Experiment’ — gets off to a fast start … In the end, the Priestleys flee, and the rioters torch their residence, which contains the scientist’s laboratory and library … It quickly establishes how well connected Priestley became after settling in Pennsylvania. He soon had friends — and foes — in high places. In one scene, he and President John Adams are having tea when Priestley suggests that Adams appoint Thomas Cooper, another English expatriate who has settled in Northumberland, to a federal post. The president reacts sharply. ‘I would never give such a position to a foreigner,’ Adams declares, adding that such appointments should be given only to ‘loyal Americans’ … Animated, occasionally humorous and always enlightening, Clarvoe’s drama shatters any notion that Priestley, internationally known for discovering oxygen in 1774, spent his last decade living quietly in Northumberland content to pursue new discoveries. It shows how he helped strengthen our First Amendment right to say things about our government that even the president may not like.” —John L Moore, The Daily Item

About the Author


  • Anthony Clarvoe

    Anthony Clarvoe’s plays PICK UP AX, SHOW AND TELL, THE LIVING, LET’S PLAY TWO, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, AMBITION FACING WEST, WALKING OFF THE ROOF, CTRL+ALT+DELETE, THE ART OF SACRIFICE, GUNPOWDER JOE, and PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE and his translations of Henrik Ibsen’s GHOSTS and THE WILD DUCK are published by Broadway Play Publishing, Inc. He has received American Theatre Critics, Will Glickman, Bay Area Theatre Critics, Los Angeles Drama Critics, Garland, Elliot Norton, and Edgerton New American Play awards; fellowships from the Guggenheim, Irvine, Jerome, and McKnight Foundations, National Endowment for the Arts, Theater Communications Group/Pew Charitable Trusts, and Kennedy Center; commissions from South Coast Rep, Mark Taper Forum, and Playwrights Horizons; the Berrilla Kerr Award for his contributions to American theater; and many others. He teaches dramatic literature at OLLI@UC Berkeley and playwriting in Oakland, CA. A native San Franciscan and long-time resident of New York City and the Midwest, he lives with his family in Berkeley, CA.

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 6/1/2017
Pages 78
ISBN 9780881457162

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:
The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
Gunpowder Joe is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC