Black History Month was kicked off with a performance of “Slave Narratives Revisited; A Celebration of Freedom.” The play, written by E. Shockley and starring Shockley and Lary Moten, was performed at the Centre Theater in Norristown. The show jumps through time to show small vignettes of slavery in many forms in many time periods.
Wayne Dyer, American psychologist and speaker, is quoted in the program saying, “Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery.” This sets the tone for the show which shows classic images of slavery in Civil War era America, but also more unconventional ideas of slavery.
For example, one character with a large part in the play was Mordechai Vanunu. Vanunu is a former Israeli nuclear technician who opposed the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He leaked some nuclear secrets the British press in 1986 and was kidnapped and imprisoned for 18 years by the Israeli government. His slavery came not only in the form of his imprisonment, but the consequences he faces for doing what is right in his mind. The play calls him a “prisoner of conscience.”
These different views on slavery gave the show a broad scope of ideas but also muddle it down a bit. The program becomes an essential guide on this journey. It’s the only real footing there is on where and when any given scene is taking place. Some scenes and settings would pop up several times through out the course of the play while other were one timers and could get lost in the shuffle of things.
“The play was a lot to take in but really made me appreciate my history and the history of my country,” Alyssa Ciccone, sophomore special education major, said. “Also it’s fun to get out and experience what culture this area has to offer.”
This culture takes the form of the Centre Theater in Norristown. On the top floor of an unassuming building lies a theater in possibly the last town one may expect to find one. John Doyle, the artistic director of the Centre Theater, said the theater’s purpose is to take shows with legs and give them an encore.
This show specifically, part of the Independent Voices Festival, is not for everyone. In order to give the message of freedom the focus, the stage is bare except for a few minor props and set pieces. The two actors dive in to a seemingly empty pool with vigor and life and play every character with no more or less fervor than the last. They create something from nothing.
At the core of this play is a message that is different for everyone. It is different depending on your background or your race. No matter what the message is we all have something to gain from it.
“Slavery is something that happened and is still happening, especially when it comes to American history,” Danielle Mclaughlin, sophomore communication major, said. “While it might be a rough topic to talk about there are things we can learn. We need to be humble and accept our failures.”