Acts of Liberation: William Wells Brown’s The Escape; or, A Leap to Freedom and August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean
The first extant play by an African American playwright was published by William Wells Brown in 1858. Brown used his experiences as a former slave to create a piece of abolitionist theater called The Escape; or, A Leap to Freedom. Over a century later, August Wilson premiered his play, Gem of the Ocean, featuring Aunt Ester, the 285-year old keeper of Black memory. In Gem, Aunt Ester guides the first generation born out of bondage to a deeper understanding of their roots in this country and their responsibility to continue fighting for their people. In this class, taught by Two River Theater Literary Manager, Taylor Barfield, we will use an analysis of these two plays to illustrate how educators can use theater as a tool to discuss slavery in the United States, the fight for freedom, “the afterlives of slavery,” and how history is passed down through generations.
This workshop is one of a four-part professional development series entitled The ART of Social Justice, and is offered as a collaboration between Red Bank’s T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center and Two River Theater, in compliance with the New Jersey Amistad Commission.