The Story of Harriet Tubman Comes to Wisconsin Lutheran College

Jan. 9, 2009
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Wisconsin Lutheran College announced yesterday that Virginia-based traveling educational theatre group Theatre IV will be arriving at the Schwan Concert Hall for a couple of performances of its dramatic musical stage adaptation of the story of Harriet Tubman. The show features Book and lyrics by Douglas Jones and music by Ron Barnett.

The musical opens as Tubman’s friend Sarah Bradford is pitching her book Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman to a publisher. The story of Tubman’s life from slavery to freedom to life as a conductor on the Underground Railroad plays out as Bradford speaks with the publisher about her life. One could imagine the story would be kind of hard to believe for someone who hadn’t had Tubman prominently featured in a grade school US History textbook as a child—her admirably strong countenance peering out of the glossy page in the classic photo portrait that serves as one of the few remaining tangible artifacts of the legendary figure.

The story of a woman (who was still living a the time the book was published) who escaped slavery, even as her frightened brothers abandoned her on the threshold of freedom—a woman who went on to help free over 300 people from slavery, act as a spy for the North during the civil war (And, incidentally, went on to fight for women’s suffrage in the 1890's)--is a fascinating story. Sadly, it is likely to be condensed considerably for the length of a traveling educational theatre presentation . . . a situation undoubtedly made worse by the musical theatre format—a style that tends to drive out some of the substance of the drama in any story. Nevertheless, if tackled well, the musical drama format has a knack for capturing the emotional reality of a remarkable life. For interested parties, this could be an interesting opening for this year’s Black History Month.

Theatre IV’s Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad will be performed at 6am and 12 pm on Friday, February 6 at Wisconsin Lutheran College’s Schwan Concert Hall.


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