Tigerville, SC (January 21, 2020) The North Greenville University (NGU) School of Theatre presents an original piece written by NGU Theatre Department Chair and Associate Dean of the School of the Arts Amy Dunlap. The play is based on the life of Sojourner Truth, born Isabella Bomfree, a former slave.
“Belle” was an outspoken advocate for abolition, temperance, and women’s rights in the nineteenth century. In 1843, she declared that the Spirit had called her to preach the truth, and she renamed herself Sojourner Truth. In 1850, Truth dictated her autobiography, “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth,” to white abolitionist, Olive Gilbert. The play centers on the unlikely friendship of Truth and Gilbert.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and that was certainly true for Dunlap. Two students, DeAndra Watkins and Taylor Lee, in the School of Theatre, needed a senior project. Watkins wanted a piece that portrayed a strong black woman. Despite Dunlap’s search, she did not feel like she found anything that met all the departmental requirements, but she did come across a couple of plays about Sojourner Truth and she was intrigued.
“I had heard of her before, but really didn’t know that much about her,” remarks Dunlap. “As I took into consideration another senior who needed a good piece, I decided to write a play about Sojourner Truth and her relationship to a white female contemporary.”
Dunlap faced several challenges in bringing the story together. She discovered that there was not a lot of historical research on Gilbert, yet she imagined her to be “a woman of strong convictions and desires, but somewhat thwarted by her life circumstances and the expectations of women in this time.”
“One of the biggest challenges for me in writing this piece was finding the balance between historical accuracy and dramatic storytelling,” states Dunlap. “I wanted to represent Sojourner’s life truthfully, but a play isn’t a documentary, and the relationship between Olive and Sojourner needed to live just as prominently as the historical facts.”
“Another huge struggle was the fact that I, a white woman, am attempting to tell the story of another white woman telling a black woman’s story,” Dunlap related. She acknowledged that, “While we strive to tell the truth, our own perceptions affect our judgment of how the truth actually appears.”
The show runs Feb. 13-15, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase online or by contacting the Billingsley Theatre Box Office at 864.977.7085.
For more information about other theatre productions this spring, visit NGU.edu/theatre-season.