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A Spirited Performance

harriet tubmanBy Anne Marie Bergthold

Using only a trunk of costumes, one woman brings to life the story of Harriet Tubman.

For one evening only on Feb. 26, “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman” will be performed by Leslie Lorraine McCurdy. Born into slavery in Maryland, Tubman escaped to freedom in Pennsylvania. At great risk to her personal safety and freedom, she returned to the South nineteen times, leading over 300 slaves to freedom. The story of Tubman and the Underground Railroad, the network of individuals dedicated to helping slaves reach freedom in the North, is a significant piece of American history.

According to Lynn Dickerson, Chief Executive Officer of the Gallo Center for the Arts, the Underground Railroad “helped thousands of slaves escape bondage in the early to mid 1800s. The Underground Railroad aided approximately 10,000 slaves in their flight to freedom by providing a system of safe houses and abolitionists determined to help them even though such actions violated state laws and the U.S. Constitution.”

It is fitting that the performance will be in February, which is Black History Month. Dickerson explains that February was the chosen to coincide with the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, two individuals who were “instrumental in the abolition of slavery and freedom for Black Americans.”

For over ten years, McCurdy has been thrilling audiences across North America. The performance is a one-woman-show, which makes for a unique theater experience, as Dickerson expresses, it is an “impressive feat to watch one person carry an entire show.”

The performance will be held in the Foster Family Theater, which Dickerson believes is an ideal setting as it is “intimate and small with only 440 seats.” She adds, “The sight lines and acoustics are excellent, so there is literally not a bad seat in the house. Every patron will feel like they are sitting in Harriet Tubman’s living room.”

McCurdy studied dance at the University of Michigan where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts. In what at the time may have seemed like a case of extraordinarily bad luck, she was poised to start an apprenticeship at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York when she tripped and fell, fracturing her hip. She transformed that mishap into a career that spans acting, playwriting, singing and choreography, in addition to dancing.

Today she is celebrated throughout the United States and Canada for being both inspirational and educational. In addition to “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman”, she has created two additional productions. “Harriet is My Hero” presents the story of Tubman in a way that is appropriate for younger audiences and “Things My Fore – Sisters Saw” is a narrative of four women of African decent who altered the course of history in Canada.

Tickets for the evening performance range from $20 to $35, while being $5 for students attending the school performance earlier that day.


 

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit tickets.galloarts.org.

 

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