Warehouse showcases story of slave girl

Brenadette Harper, left, in her role as Grandma, comforts Harriet Jacobs, played by Diana Mena, in the play, “Harriet Jacobs.” (Photo courtesy of The Actors’ Warehouse)

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 2:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 2:22 p.m.

"Harriet Jacobs," a heart-wrenching account of the life of an African-American girl born into slavery, is coming to The Actors' Warehouse.



* What: “Harriet Jacobs,” a play in conjunction with Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

* When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Feb. 27-28 and March 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday and March 2.

* Where: The Actors’ Warehouse, 608 N. Main St.

* Tickets: $10 in advance and at the door.

* Information: Call 352-301-5823.

The play, in conjunction with Black History Month this month and Women's History Month in March, tells the story of unimaginable sadness and the indomitable spirit of a young woman who escapes from slavery to become an abolitionist speaker.

It will be presented at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and also Feb. 27-28 and March 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday and March 2 at The Actors' Warehouse at 608 N. Main St. Tickets, which are $10, are available online at www.starcenter.ticketleap.com and at the door.

Directed by Rhonda Wilson, founder and artistic director of The Actors' Warehouse and the Star Center Children's Theatre, "Harriet Jacobs" is a play inspired by Jacobs' book, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," which was self-published in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent.

Wilson said Jacobs, played by University of Florida theater student Diana Mena, describes with brutal honesty the hardships she endures under slavery, including the extraordinary choices she had to make to be near her children. She said the play features the rich musical traditions of slave spirituals and offers an inspiring look at a young woman's fascinating journey from slavery to freedom.

"She talks about her life as a house slave and the life of the field slaves, the beatings, abuses and horrors," Wilson said.

Wilson said Jacobs talks about evading the sexual advances of Master Norcum, played by Ulysees Gilbert, and his threats to sell or kill her two children if she does not succumb to his demands.

"She runs away to keep her children safe and hides in an attic for seven years," Wilson said, "and during that time, she can see her children from afar."

Wilson said Jacobs hides in her grandmother's attic for seven years. Her grandmother, played by Brenadette Harper, is a free slave who purchased her freedom and supported herself by selling baked goods.

Other members of the cast consist of Dayshai Cosey as Mary, Lexi Krueger as Charlotte, Corliss Gainey as Mistress Norcum, Lamont Wallace and Bradley Small as Tom, Russell Williams as Samuel Treadwell Sawyer, and Tamboura Jenkins as Daniel.

Wilson said Jacobs, who was taught to read and write, kept a daily narrative of her experiences and what she saw and heard at the plantation.

"It's a sad story and it will make you cry and understand there's always hope," Wilson said. "Her hope sustained her all those seven years in hiding."

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