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13 Feb 2011

One man show explores race and justice

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February 13, 2011 Category: Diaspora Posted by:

Artistic Director Larry Robin hosts “John Brown: Trumpet of Freedom, a drama by George Wolf Reily and Norman Thomas Marshall at The Moonstone Arts Center, 110A S. 13th Street, Feb. 17-19, 7:00 PM. General admission tickets are $20.00/$15 for Senior cititzens. Call 215-735-9600 for reservations.


Directed by Reily, the show features Marshall as 30 historical characters including Brown, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglas and even Harriet Tubman.


John Brown: Trumpet of Freedom explores, through historically accurate words from “the Old Man” himself, the inner life of a man who commits himself to the destruction of slavery. Marshall and Reily integrate old spirituals and hymns which Brown sings to illuminates his inner fire. The play’s major focus is on several episodes from his life; witnessing a brutal beating of an enslaved child; his guerrilla campaign in the Kansas that resulted in the deaths of five pro-slavery men; the raid on Harpers Ferry; and Brown’s trial and execution.


PHOTO: Norman Thomas Marshall as abolitionist John Brown.


In the shadow of the gallows, on the morning of his execution – a fate that he joyfully embraces – he composes a farewell letter to his abolitionist compatriots. He is confident that his death at the hands of slavery loving State of Virginia will hasten the end of the “peculiar institution” of chattel slavery. The play challenges the tradition of Brown’s role in history as that of a mentally unbalanced fanatic and argues that he is, in fact, a uniquely heroic figure.


Norman Thomas Marshall was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of a Klansman and grandson of a slave owner. His colorful life includes a stint as an offensive tackle for the Richmond Vikings, a civil rights activist, and the subject of a 1960’s Supreme Court case resulting in his expulsion from college for political activism.


Marshall moved to New York City in 1966 and became deeply involved in the Off-off Broadway theatre movement. His New York debut was in the title role of Ronald Tavel’s “Gorilla Queen” at the Judson Poets Theatre. He performed in Tavel’s Obie Award winning “Boy on a Straight Back Chair”, “Blood Wedding” with Raul Julia, “Of Mice and Men” with F. Murray Abraham, Jackie Curtis’s “Amerika/Cleopatra” opposite Harvey Fierstein (who played Marshall’s mother-in-law), and “Charlie Was Here & Now He’s Gone” with Joe Morton and Robert Guillaume. His film and television work includes many appearances on daytime dramas and in film roles opposite Burt Reynolds, Barbra Streisand, and Fritz Weaver.


He spent eleven years as the Artistic Director of the No Smoking Playhouse in New York City.

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