A staged reading of Possessing Harriet, a new play by Kyle Bass, commissioned by the Onondaga Historical Association. The play, directed by Tazewell Thompson, premiered at Syracuse Stage Oct 17-Nov 4, 2018.
Synopsis: In 1839, Harriet Powell, a young, mixed-race, enslaved woman slips away from a hotel in Syracuse, New York, and escapes from the Southerner who owns her. With the aid of a mysterious free black man named Thomas Leonard, Harriet finds temporary safe harbor in an attic room at the home of impassioned abolitionist Gerrit Smith. With the slave catchers in pursuit, Harriet spends the hours before her nighttime departure on the dangerous journey to Canada in the company of Smith’s young cousin Elizabeth Cady, an outspoken advocate for women’s equality. Confronted with new and difficult ideas about race, identity, and equality, and with confusion, fear, and desperation multiplying, Harriet is forced to the precipice of radical self-re-imagination and a reckoning with the heartrending cost of freedom.
This staged reading is a featured public event of the annual Researching NY Conference, cosponsored by the UAlbany History Department and the NYS Archives Partnership Trust with support from Humanities NY. Additional support for Possessing Harriet from the NYS Museum, NYS Writers Institute, the UAlbany Graduate Program in Public History, the Department of Africana Studies, and the Department of Music and Theatre.