Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
'Recruits' to reinterpret Civil War
BY BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Four major universities are joining theater companies in Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in a project to commission new plays, music and dance compositions about the Civil War and its lasting legacy 150 years later.
The National Civil War Project was announced Thursday in Washington and will involve programming over the next two years to mark the 150th anniversary of the war between the North and the South. Beyond commissioning new works, organizers plan for university faculty to integrate the arts into their academic programs on campus.
Under the program, Harvard University will partner with the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass.; the University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center will join CENTERSTAGE in Baltimore; George Washington University is working with Arena Stage in Washington; and Atlanta's Alliance Theatre will join Emory University.
Each collaboration will evoke unique perspectives on the Civil War in each region.
At Harvard, a new piece called "The Boston Abolitionists" about the abolitionist movement and the trial of a fugitive slave will be performed in May.
In Atlanta, Alliance Theatre and Emory will develop a new theatrical production of U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey's Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Native Guard," with a workshop planned for 2014.
The project recounts the story of a black Civil War regiment assigned to guard white Confederate soldiers on Ship Island off Mississippi's Gulf Coast.
Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith, who helped guide the project, said, "This is an anniversary of what is arguably one of the most important times in American history. And the same questions behind state rights and civil rights continue to infuse who we are as a country."
Choreographer Liz Lerman, a 2002 MacArthur Foundation "genius" fellow, helped in developing the partnerships between theaters and universities during a semester spent at Harvard.
She said artists can help professors animate their scholarship as more traditional lectures move online, and the Civil War is a good subject to connect art and academics.
"It's something about the fact that we're still trying to understand it," Lerman said. "There are enough civil wars still going on in the world, I myself am trying to understand what it must be like."