The OHA commissioned play Possessing Harriet from local playwright, Kyle Bass, has been chosen by Ithaca’s Kitchen Theatre, a professional equity theater, for its 2016 New Play Development Program at the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. Possessing Harriet concerns the compelling story of runaway slave, Harriet Powell, and her harrowing escape through the Underground Rail Road network in Syracuse and Central New York in 1839. During her escape, she was temporarily housed in the mansion of legendary abolitionist Gerrit Smith in Peterboro. While there, she had a long and emotional discussion with Smith’s cousin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who became one of the most famous women’s rights activists in history. The conversation cemented Stanton’s resolve to fight against the institution of slavery and she often referred to the encounter throughout the rest of her life.
Though the histories of both Stanton and Powell are well documented, the contents of their private discussion on that pivotal day were never disclosed by either woman. Possessing Harriet centers on that discussion and constitutes the heart of the play.
Kitchen Theater’s New Play Development Program involves an intense workshop with professional actors and director, together with the playwright, to help develop the play into finished form. The workshop will result in a Stage Reading, which is by invitation only. The profiles of the actors chosen for the workshop can be viewed at the links below.
Alexander Thomas – Thomas Leonard
Lori McNally – Harriet Powell
David Studwell – Gerrit Smith
Anna Stefanic – Elizabeth Cady