Possessing Harriet

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Possessing Harriet





Directed by Vernice Miller

Featuring Vanessa R. Butler*, Robert Hannon Davis*, Olivia Nicole Hoffman*, Godfrey L. Simmons Jr.*

In 1839, Harriet Powell, a young, mixed-race, enslaved woman slips away from a hotel in Syracuse, New York, and escapes, finding temporary safe harbor in the home of impassioned abolitionist Gerrit Smith. With the slave catchers in pursuit, Harriet spends the hours before her nighttime escape to Canada in the company of Smith’s young cousin Elizabeth Cady, an outspoken advocate for women’s equality. As both women confront new and difficult ideas about race, identity, and equality, Harriet is forced to the precipice of a radical reckoning with the heartrending cost of freedom. Which wrenching choice will Harriet choose: Return to the relative safety of her master’s household, or risk everything by fleeing to Canada?

*Appearing through an Agreement between HartBeat Ensemble and Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Masks are required for the following performances: Sat, Oct 7 at 2:00 pm and Fri, Oct 13 at 8:00 pm. 

Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission


Kyle Bass (playwright) is the author of the play Tender Rain, which premiered at Syracuse Stage in May 2023. Salt City Blues which was produced at Syracuse Stage in in 2022, Citizen James, or The Young Man Without a Country, about a young James Baldwin, which was commissioned by Syracuse Stage, has streamed nationally since 2021, and has been optioned for an international feature-length film, and Possessing Harriet, which premiered at Syracuse Stage in 2018, was subsequently produced at Franklin Stage Company, at the East Lynne Theater Company, and is published by Standing Stone Books. Toliver & Wakeman, commissioned by Franklin Stage Company through a Support for Artist Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, premiered at Franklin Stage Company in August 2023. His libretto for Libba Cotten: Here This Day, an opera based on the life of American folk music legend Libba Cotten, was commissioned by The Society for New Music. With National Medal of Honor recipient Ping Chong, Kyle is the co-author of Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo, which premiered at Syracuse Stage and was subsequently produced at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York. Kyle also worked with Ping Chong on Tales from The Salt City, which premiered at Syracuse Stage. Kyle’s other full-length plays include Leeboe & Sons, Baldwin vs. Buckley: The Faith of Our Fathers, which has been presented at Cornell University, Colgate University, the University of Delaware, and Syracuse University, and Separated, a documentary theatre piece about the student military veterans at Syracuse University, which was presented at Syracuse Stage and the Paley Center in New York. He has also written for Noh theatre under commission by Theatre Nohgaku. Kyle is the co-author of the original screenplay for the film Day of Days (Broad Green Pictures, 2017) and is a three-time recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (for fiction in 1998, for playwriting in 2010, and for screenwriting in 2022), a finalist for the Princess Grace Playwriting Award, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. As dramaturg, Kyle worked with acclaimed visual artist and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Carrie Mae Weems on her theatre piece Grace Notes: Reflections for Now, which premiered at the 2016 Spoleto Festival USA, and he was the script consultant on Thoughts of a Colored Man, which premiered at Syracuse Stage in 2019 and opened on Broadway in 2021. His plays and other writings have appeared in the journals Callaloo and Stone Canoe, among others, and in the anthology Alchemy of the Word: Writers Talk about Writing. Kyle is an assistant professor in the Department of Theater at Colgate University, where he was the 2019 Burke Endowed Chair for Regional Studies. Previously, he was faculty in the MFA Creative Writing program at Goddard College, taught playwriting in the Department of Drama and theater and dramatic literature courses in the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University, and playwriting at Hobart & William Smith Colleges. The Susan P. Stroman Visiting Playwright at the University of Delaware and the Flournoy Visiting Playwright at Washington & Lee University, Kyle holds an MFA in playwriting from Goddard College, is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America and is represented by the Barbara Hogenson Agency. A descendent of African people enslaved in colonial New England and in the American South, Kyle lives and writes in central upstate New York where his family has lived free and owned land for nearly 225 years.

Vernice Miller (director) performer, director, producer, activist- stage work includes directing Three Women (Break the Silence) by anthropologist Dr. Omotayo Jolaosho at the Market Theater Laboratory in Johannesburg before touring South Africa. In Slovenia and Poland, she performed and co-directed Nomansland for Seth Baumrin’s Subpoetics International. Miller directed the inaugural production of Bee Trapped Inside the Window by Saviana Stanescu, commissioned by Civic Ensemble in Ithaca, NY. For network television, she shadowed director Felix Alcala on the CBS series Madam Secretary throughout filming of season 6 episode 9 Carpe Diem. Miller has collaborated with jazz musician Wynton Marsalis on Eatonville, a Zora Neal Hurston project, and spent ten years working internationally with HBO comedienne Hazelle Goodman. She is currently an adjunct lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC. In 1995 with Joann Maria Yarrow, they co-founded A Laboratory for Actor Training Experimental Theatre Company, to evolve work they began with Roberta Carreri at Eugenio Barba's Odin Teatret in Denmark. Miller is the recipient of the London New Play Festival's Best Actress Award for her solo performance of Medea: Now. (www.ALATetc.org)

Please join us for ENCOUNTERS: POSSESSING HARRIET, a special dialogue event that features small group discussions, on critical questions about the play, as well as specialist feedback and engagement. The Encounters Series is a program of UConn's Dodd Human Rights Impact Democracy and Dialogues Initiative.

Wed, Oct 11 at 5:00 p | Carriage House Theater | Link to register HERE

Possessing Harriet had its World Premiere at Syracuse Stage, Syracuse, NY, in October 2018, Artistic Director Robert Hupp Production, Directed by Tazewell Thompson and originally commissioned by The Onondaga Historical Association, Syracuse, NY,  Gregg Tripoli, Executive Director.

These performances are supported in part by The Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation, the Greater Hartford Council for the Arts and CT Humanities. Additional support provided by the J. Bissell Foundation, CT Humanities, CT Office of the Arts, Department of Economic and Community Development, National Endowment for the Arts and Travelers.

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Carriage House Theater 360 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105
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