Bates’ Africana program offers five plays during Black History Month that use historical events as a springboard to explore white oppression and black resistance.
Four were written by Lecturer in Theater Clifford Odle, who also teaches in the college’s Africana program. Each is based on actual incidents involving African American slaves in 18th-century New England. The fifth play, Janice Liddell’s Who Will Sing for Lena?, will be performed by Jes Washington ’13.
Noon, Feb. 6, Commons Fireplace Lounge
Part I: Blood in the Revolution — “According to Mark”
Part of the larger work Blood in the Revolution, this 10-minute play reading was first in a series of four plays by Lecturer in Theater Cliff Odle marking Black History Month at Bates. The title character “was a slave who could read and was looking for a way to free himself from an oppressive master,” says Odle. “And he felt the Bible provided a path to murdering him as long as he didn’t spill blood.”
Noon, Feb. 10, Fireplace Lounge, Commons
Part II: Blood in the Revolution — “Witness to a Massacre”
This 10-minute play reading deals with an educated slave named Andrew who was an important witness to the Boston Massacre, the 1770 killing of several colonists by British troops.
Who Will Sing for Lena?
Jessica Washington ’13 returns to Bates to perform Janice Liddell’s one-woman show, Who Will Sing for Lena?
The play is about Lena Mae Baker, a domestic worker from Georgia who shot and killed her white employer in 1944 in self-defense and became the first and only woman executed in Georgia’s electric chair.
Noon, Feb. 14, Fireplace Lounge, Commons
Part III: Blood in the Revolution — “A Suit Made of Freedom”
This 10-minute play reading focuses on a woman named Mum Bett, aka Elizabeth Freeman, who successfully won her freedom from slavery in a 1780 court case in Massachusetts.
5pm, Feb. 27, Gannett Theater, 103 Pettigrew Hall
A Deerfield Homecoming
This 90-minute play combines and fictionalizes two separate historical episodes that took place in Deerfield, Mass. One involves Eunice Williams, an English colonist who was kidnapped by the French and the Mohawks as a child and became assimilated into Mohawk society. The other is about Lucy Terry, a slave whose ballad poem “Bars Fight” is considered the oldest known literary work by an African American.