Brooklyn, NY: The Irondale Ensemble presents a new play, In Pursuit of Freedom, April 26 – May 26 (Tuesdays thru Saturday), an original work devised by the ensemble and developed as part of the borough’s first public history project to explore the abolitionist movement in Brooklyn. The whole project, also known as In Pursuit of Freedom will bring to life this fascinating abolition story while teasing out the relevance of the subject for contemporary audiences.
At Irondale, In Pursuit of Freedom will explore the tension between Brooklyn’s phenomenal growth during the nineteenth century based on its intricate ties to slavery, and the moral imperative towards anti-slavery activism by a small group of residents. Set in the tumultuous decade prior to the Civil War, In Pursuit of Freedom will blend real and fictional characters, who were all committed Brooklynites. The play will explore a time in this borough’s history when free African-Americans, charted a course of self-determination in order to address the everyday injustices of racism, threats of illegal kidnapping, voter discrimination, and a profound lack of legal and political equality. It was also a time when ordinary men and women, black and white, became abolitionists, in order to end slavery even as their city’s wealth depended on the Southern economy. The play will tell new stories about familiar abolitionists and recover activists who have been underrepresented by mainstream narratives. Ultimately, the play will be a venue for exploring American notions of freedom and engage with the ongoing debates of how we define freedom today.
In Pursuit of Freedom project draws on the resources and capacities of two other leading Brooklyn cultural organizations, Brooklyn Historical Society and Weeksville Heritage Center. In Fall 2013, all three organizations will unveil permanent exhibitions as part of an ambitious, historical and educational project, that will complement and add to the experience of seeing the play. The drama of the abolitionist movement is manifest in the physical environment. Many communities still meet in churches that were centers of resistance. Buildings that were once were abolitionists’ homes or meeting venues abound. The waterfront is still littered with the warehouses and other buildings that were essential for exchange and trade with the slave holding states. At twenty of these sites highly visible “markers” will be erected as permanent reminders of the history of the location to passers by. Elements of these exciting exhibitions will be displayed throughout the historic Irondale Center to offer glimpses of what In Pursuit of Freedom will become as the project moves through into 2013.
Irondale was created by Jim Niesen, Terry Greiss and Barbara Mackenzie-Wood, in 1983. Through the power of the ensemble process, Irondale creates and presents theater, performance, and education programs that challenge traditional assumptions about art, and help us to better interpret contemporary culture. The Irondale Center is the company’s theater, laboratory, and classroom. It is also home for ensemble artists of all disciplines and cultures.