Peter, led by the spirit of Truth into the past, learns the true meaning of his history. (Photo by Maria Adebola)
THEARC Theatre culminated its 2015 Black History Month program in celebration of African Americans who spearheaded historical movements such as civil rights, women’s rights, and other notable milestones with a musical play.
Truth the Musical, a depiction of the life of Sojourner Truth, was featured through a four series performance at THEARC Theatre. The showing began from Feb. 26 through Feb. 28. The musical was written and produced by Keni Fine Productions in collaboration with THEARCS I CAN, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.
The musical brings a different interpretation to the story of Truth, best known as an African American abolitionist and women’s rights activist in the 1800 era. Though the story succinctly relayed the hurdles and milestones of the phenomenal character, it featured a modern twist up tempo tune; break dancing moves by the performers dressed in saggy pants, baggy shirts and fitted hats.
The play was geared toward the younger generation as it tells the story of a troubled teen named Peter who, like any other young adult living in an urban environment, feels a sense of internal displacement. Peter was in search of the true meaning of his historical background, as he poses the question to the spirit of Truth who visited him, “What do you know about truth?”
Peter encountered the spirit of Truth, who engages him in a conversation about his unruly approach to finding the true meaning of his existence. Unbeknownst to Peter, the stranger who he encountered was Sojourner Truth herself. Truth goes on to question him about why he is so concerned about uncovering the truth about his history and the people that surrounds him. Peter goes on a rampage about knowing more than she thinks. With that, Truth leads Peter into a journey to the past which begin with her as a child.
Truth, who was originally named Isabelle Baumfree, introduces Peter to herself as a child sold at auction for $100 by slave owner, John Neely in 1806. As time flies, the audience encounters Truth as a woman who has birthed children and is still working as a slave. The musical plot thickens once Truth continuously croons about her need for freedom. Soon, Truth makes it her mission to escape from slavery with her infant daughter, Sophia.
Fast forward to some years later, Peter again journeys through the historical scenes where Truth won a landmark case against a slave owner, for illegally purchasing her son, whose name, ironically, was Peter.
Transfixed by the riveting narration of Truth, played by Broadway actress April Nixon, Peter was introduced the women’s right activist and abolitionist. Truth belts out tunes on why women should have the same rights as men in several scenes, using her faith and life experiences as a platform. She delivered her now famous speech known as “Ain’t I a woman,” in a powerful musical ensemble that earned a standing ovation from the audience.
When Truth’s death is announced, Peter returns to reality, speaking briefly to Truth, who reminds him she is not gone, but lives through him and the decisions he makes. Peter reveals that he finally knows the truth about his history, and how he will live with a profound appreciation of those who paved the way for him.
The musical ensemble ranging from R&B to gospel melodies served as the backdrop for pain, redemption, hope, and freedom. Peter and the audience learn that because of Truth, and other freedom fighters like her, he is able to obtain the privileges available to him.