With 2013 marking the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the midpoint of the Civil War, the 2013-14 ArtsCenter Stage Main Stage season features three plays that highlight this period.
• “The Whipping Man” by Matthew Lopez, Oct. 18-20 and 24-27, directed by Mark Filiaci with Alphonse Nicholson, Victor Rivera, and Phillip B. Smith.
It is Passover, 1865. The Civil War has just ended and the annual celebration of freedom from bondage is being observed in Jewish homes across the country. One of these homes, belonging to the DeLeons of Virginia, sits in ruins. Confederate officer Caleb DeLeon has returned from the war to find his family missing and only two former slaves remaining. Caleb is badly wounded and the two men, Simon and John, are forced to care for him. As the three men wait for the family's return, they share a make-shift Seder, wrestle with their shared past as master and slave, and dig up long-buried family secrets along the way. Slavery and war, they discover, warp even good men's souls.
• “A Civil War Christmas” by Paula Vogel, Dec. 13-15 and 18-22, directed by Bing Cox with Gus Allen, Alyssa Coleman, Lora Dean Tatum, Gil Faison, Mary Forester, Terra Hodge, John Paul Middlesworth, Alphonse Nicholson, Joey Osuna, Mark Phialas, Bonnie Roe, and Justin Smith.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel weaves a rich tapestry of a beleaguered and divided nation, war-weary and desperate for goodwill, on a blustery Christmas Eve in 1864. Through the personal stories and struggles of a wide range of historical figures and fictional characters – from the President’s wife to runaway slaves, Union and Confederate soldiers to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Walt Whitman – we learn that, for all their differences, one thing is clear: the yearning for peace cuts across religious and class divisions, color lines and the Mason-Dixon Line.
• “Gem of the Ocean” by August Wilson, May 9-11 and 15-18, 2014, directed by John Harris with Jade Arnold, Gil Faison, Juanda Holley, Thomasi McDonald, Sherida McMillan, Philip B. Smith and John Murphy
Set in 1904, when slavery was still a living memory, “Gem of the Ocean” is the story of drifter Citizen Barlow, who arrives at the home of Aunt Ester in search of asylum and spiritual redemption. At 287 years old, Aunt Ester guides Barlow on a soaring, lyrical journey of self-discovery to the mythical City of Bones, on which, Ester tells Barlow, everything is built. Once there, Barlow finds absolution and makes a startling discovery of faith that moves him to act beyond the boundaries of his conscience.