by Dominique Morisseau
Originally produced at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
April 8 - October 31, 2020
About the Premiere Production:
Synopsis: Sara, an enslaved woman with a fighting spirit, plots her path to freedom. Sandra, a practical and compassionate modern-day professor at a private university, navigates fraught relationships, assumptions and acts of hostility in her work life, and tumult at home. Leaping back and forth between the struggles of two Black women living 160 years apart, playwright Dominique Morisseau takes an unflinching and illuminating look at how history and institutional racism inform our present reality.
Artistic Statement: Confederates is a powerful new play by Dominique Morisseau, who was co-commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle and Penumbra Theatre specifically to write about the role of African Americans in the Civil War; inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article “Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?” published in The Atlantic in November 2011. Confederates opens with a shocking, racially motivated act and unfolds across centuries as a tale of despair and hope, vulnerability and resistance.
Confederates points to American history, specifically the Civil War, as a common thread that links us; it asks us to consider who we are capable of becoming. It is the playwright’s brilliant structural choice to have the actors play, in back-to-back scenes, enslaved and slave-owning Civil War characters and students and faculty in the contemporary academic setting, placing the past and present in active conversation. Not only does Confederates expertly capture the language and psyche of the characters at precise moments in history and the nuanced ways people strive for justice and fight for dignity, it confronts head-on the stereotypical notions of womanhood and the roles society has traditionally allowed Black women to inhabit. – Nataki Garrett, Artistic Director
Grant Statement: The rehearsal time supported by an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award is invaluable to the script refinement, character development, staging and cultural framework of Confederates. The relationships in the play are complex and nuanced, reflecting gender, race and class dynamics. Performed by a cast of four women and one man doubling eight roles, the characters talk, fight, plan freedom and resist injustice in both intense dialogue and in lyrical, emotionally complex monologues. Given this close ensemble work and the doubling and transformations from slave cabin to academic office that take place on stage to illustrate the overlapping and co-existence of past and present, the extra rehearsal weeks are essential. With the grant, we can assemble the full creative team for the first time and give the playwright, director, design team and cast critical additional days to dive into the complex material as a group. In particular the grant allows a) Dominique, myself and the designers time together to examine the complex shifts between past and present that ultimately inform the action on stage, and b) the five actors to fully explore their characters and begin preparing early for what promise to be moving and complex roles. – Nataki Garrett, Artistic Director
Director: Nataki Garrett
Cast: Preston Butler III, Christiana Clark, Erica Sullivan
Set Designer: Nina Ball
Lighting Designer: Xavier Pierce
Costume Designer: Ricky German
Sound Designer: T. Carlis Roberts
Additional funders: Don Kania and Renee DuBois, The Birrell Family, Elaine and Dick Sweet