Jan. 30, 2004 – In celebration of Black History Month, Pistarckle Theater on St. Thomas is presenting two performances of "Harriet Speaks," a one-woman show about the life of Harriet Tubman, heroic "conductor" on the Underground Railroad by which slaves in the United States in the 19th century made their way from the South to the North and freedom.
Tubman, born into slavery, made her own escape at the age of 29 and came to be known as "the Moses of her people." In the 1850s and early '60s, prior to emancipation, she made 19 trips from the North into the South and back, helping to free more than 300 slaves utilizing a network of safe houses along the way.
"Harriet Speaks" will be presented at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday in Pistarckle's theater facility in Tillett Gardens. Admission is free; reservations are recommended, especially for groups.
Portraying Tubman is Karen Jones Meadows, who also wrote the play, which has been performed at schools, universities and parks nationwide.
The work is described on the Internet as an "interactive show that allows students to hear and experience the life of Harriet Tubman," and in which they are "invited to physically take a walk with her through the Underground Railroad, creating a unique first-person observation of history. This play encourages a deeper understanding of both Tubman's life and this complicated period of America's past."
In humor and wit as well as pathos and sorrow, the play follows Harriet from the age of 6 through her coming of age, her courtship with John Tubman — a free black, her Underground Railroad exploits, her service as a spy for the Union Army, her later career as a government nurse and her second marriage at 50 — through her reflections at the age of 93 in her last year of life. "In the words of Harriet herself," as one Web site put it, "'You'll have somethin' to remember and talk about.'"
Meadows is an author, actress and producer who writes for adult and young audiences, creating stories and characters that are universal in theme, passion and resolution. Her work, reflecting the diversity of the world's populations, thoughts and cultures, has garnered awards from The Drama League of New York, Black Filmmakers Foundation, the California State Assembly, Black Women's Forum, and Penumbra Theatre.
In addition to writing, producing and performing in plays, she tours nationally conducting her workshop titled "Drama as a Healing Art."
The U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service have recognized "Harriet Speaks" as a creative, new way to honor Tubman.
For its St. Thomas presentation, "Harriet Speaks" is being directed by Jake Walker, an actor, singer/songwriter as well as director who has worked in regional theater throughout the country, as well as film and television. His first CD as a solo artist is slated for release in April.
And serving as designer and stage manager is David Ode, whose credits also include work as a producer, director and performing artist in film and television as well as on stage — and whose nickname is Dr. Doodaah.
Pistarckle Theater received a V.I. Humanities Council major grant to present "Harriet Speaks."
This is the second year that Pistarckle has mounted a special performance to commemorate Black History Month. Last year, the Humanities Council also supported the first initiative, "The African Company Presents Richard III." For that production, "we played to a capacity house and drew a new audience," Nicola Emerich, Pistarckle producing artistic director. says.
For more information about Tubman, including links to other online biographical postings, visit the Spectrum Home and School Network Web site.
For reservations for Thursday or Friday, e-mail to Pistarckle Theater, or call the theater office at 775-7877.
Workshop on 'drama as healing art'
Meadows will conduct her workshop on "Drama as a Healing Art" at 5 p.m. Saturday on the Marlin Deck at American Yacht Harbor in Red Hook on St. Thomas. It's also free and open to the public.
In the workshop, according to Internet publicity, Meadows helps participants explore their "subconscious and conscious motives for writing what you write and the impact it has on you the author, your audience and mass consciousness."
Interactive exercises, visual-art journals and spontaneous writing will be employed to help participants identify "areas of personal importance, challenges and enigmas," according to the online publicity. "The tools you develop in this workshop will help you confront and solve your issues, and develop characters, plots and denouements that offer substance and purpose."
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