Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:
We answer a question from a listener about a failed rebellion in American history …
Play music from an award winning Broadway play ...
And report about the anniversary of the movie "Star Wars."
On May twenty-fifth, nineteen seventy-seven, a science fiction movie called "Star Wars" opened in thirty-two theaters in the United States. It was about the struggle between good and evil in a strange and different universe. By the end of that year "Star Wars" became the most successful film in American history.
Five more "Star Wars" films would be released. They would become one of the most successful movie series of all time. Faith Lapidus tells us about some of the continuing "Star Wars" anniversary celebrations.
Many events took place on the anniversary of the release of the first "Star Wars" movie. Movie fans met at a special convention in Los Angeles, California. The United States Post Office released stamps showing fifteen different pictures from the movies. American television shows presented new information about the making of the "Star Wars" series. And newspapers wrote about the continuing popularity of "Star Wars" and its creator, George Lucas.
Millions of people all over the world love "Star Wars" and its characters -- Princess Leia, Han Solo, Yoda, Luke Skywalker -- even the evil Darth Vader. The Lucasfilm company is now making it possible for those fans to create new films about them. Fans with computers can go to the mash-ups area of the "Star Wars" Web site and change scenes from the movies. The Web site provides a simple editing program to do this. Then the editors can place their movies on Web sites like MySpace.
Lucasfilm officials say about two hundred fifty scenes are provided on the Web site. Each is no longer than sixty seconds, and similar ones are grouped together. For example, one group of scenes includes the character Jar Jar Binks. Fans can change him any way they want. But they will have to follow to some rules. And a team of experts will be watching the results to make sure they are not offensive in any way.
Lucasfilm officials say this is one way to keep the popularity of "Star Wars" alive since no more movies will be made. The studio has plans to continue such efforts in the future. In the next few years, it will produce a new video game and two television series based on the "Star Wars" stories and characters.
The Whiskey Rebellion
Our VOA listener question this week comes from a student in Iran who asks about the Whiskey Rebellion in early American history.
The Whiskey Rebellion was a major test of the power of the new United States government after the war of independence ended in seventeen eighty-three. The new government agreed to pay the war debts of the individual states.
In seventeen ninety-one, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed a way the federal government could raise money to pay this debt. He proposed placing a tax on all alcoholic drinks sold in the country. Congress approved the tax and President George Washington signed it into law.
Some farmers in several states immediately opposed this tax. They earned money by selling whiskey they made from the corn and rye they grew. By seventeen ninety-four, farmers in western Pennsylvania began openly protesting the tax. They threatened and sometimes attacked government workers sent to the area to collect the money. The civil protests became an armed rebellion. Local officials ordered the arrest of the leaders of the rebellion, but this just added to the violence.
President Washington considered this Whiskey Rebellion a threat to the power of the federal government. So he took a bold step. He personally led an army of more than twelve thousand troops into western Pennsylvania to stop the rebellion.
The farmers quickly retreated. Captured prisoners were later released and pardoned. The government ended the tax in eighteen–oh-two.
History experts say the Whiskey Rebellion was a small but important event in American history. It was the first time the federal government used military force to show its power over the nation's citizens. Its resolution demonstrated the full power of the federal government to American citizens and to the states.
Experts also say the Whiskey Rebellion was an early warning of a question that would continue to test the new nation. Which should be stronger-- the rights of individual states or the power of the federal government? That question would not be answered until the end of the American Civil War in the eighteen sixties.
Broadway's top award ceremony was held Sunday in New York City. The show "Spring Awakening" won eight Tony awards, including Best Musical. Shirley Griffith has more on the show and its music.
"Spring Awakening," is based on a play written in eighteen ninety-one by German playwright Frank Wedekind. The play was banned from production for many years because people at the time considered it immoral.
The play deals with German teenagers who have no knowledge or understanding of sex. They start to experience feelings they do not understand. But the adults in the play are not willing to share information with them.
The teenagers also question what they learn in school. They want to learn things for themselves. They express their feelings through rock and roll music. This song is called "All That's Known."
Actor John Gallagher, Junior, won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical. He plays Moritz in "Spring Awakening." Here he sings "Don't Do Sadness."
Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik shared the Tony Award for Best Original Score (Music or Lyrics) Written for the Theater. Mister Sheik accepted the award and thanked the producers of "Spring Awakening" for their support. And he said: "Musical theater rocks."
We leave you with the final song of "Spring Awakening" called "The Song of Purple Summer."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver, who also was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.