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'Rowan Day' opens EgoPo Theater's latest production

Opening night of EgoPo Classic Theater's world premiere of Uncle Tom's Cabin: An Unfortunate History – an adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's revolutionary novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin – is ROWAN DAY.

 

The play - opening on Friday, May 31 at Plays and Players Theater in Philadelphia - has been created by faculty members Lane Savadove & Paule Turner from the Department of Theatre & Dance and Glenn Odom from the Department of English and features Rowan students and alumni among the cast and design team.

 

This premier production is directed by Savadove, EgoPo's Artistic Director, and will mark the final installment of EgoPo's American Vaudeville Festival.  Uncle Tom's Cabin will be performed on the mainstage at Plays and Players Theater and the show will run until Sunday, June 9.

 

EgoPo produces rarely-seen classics of literature and theatre in year-long festivals that take audiences on season-long explorations of a single theatrical theme. This year's American Vaudeville Festival explores the great icons and stories of this formative era of American history; from the touring shows of the 1880s to the birth of Broadway in the 1920s.

 

Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling book of the 19th century and radically transformed the nation's sentiments toward the institution of slavery. During that time, most people experienced Stowe's work on stage, making Uncle Tom's Cabin the most seen play in American history. Over 3 million people crowded into theaters to see the story that Abraham Lincoln said "began this great war" and that had a major influence on the abolition movement.

 

Due, in part, to minstrel show versions of the play in the early part of the 20th century, by the 1950s Uncle Tom's Cabin became seen as racist and went from core required reading, to historical artifact.  Only in the last decade has Stowe's seminal novel been reclaimed by scholars, such as Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cornell West, as a truly transformative and historical piece for race relations in America.

 

EgoPo will support Stowe's vision of an America that embraces diversity, understanding and empathy by presenting the novel in a race-reversed adaption. This reversal will allow audiences to look at the very mechanisms of slavery and racism as well as slavery's legacy on contemporary American society.  The goal is for audiences to perceive the humanity of all the characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin regardless of race.  In the end, we must learn to understand and empathize with the experience and history of racial groups other than our own, if we are to reach the vision of a post-racial society that, then candidate, Obama proposed in Philadelphia, with his 2008 speech.  This play seeks to play a small role in moving us toward this vision.

 

Only with understanding can we cut the damaging tendrils of slavery's legacy and heal the deep scars slavery has left on America.  We need to stop seeing racism as a problem that lives in others, and look carefully at ourselves.  Reversing the races in the play, seeks to aid in this honest self-examination of our society and our selves. As we seek to present a candid depiction of slavery, this play will contain sensitive content that may be uncomfortable to some viewers.

 

EgoPo has assembled a large and diverse cast to bring Stowe's vivid novel to full life, welcoming back Ed Swidey as Uncle Tom. Swidey's past EgoPo credits include Endgame, Hell and last year's A Dybbuk.  Steven Wright re-joins EgoPo as Augustine St. Clare, a New Orleans plantation owner. Wright is a familiar face within Philadelphia and has performed with EgoPo in the Barrymore-nominated Marat/Sade. Tiffany Bacon joins the company for the first time, playing Marie St. Clare. In addition to her acting career, Bacon has long been known as a popular radio voice at B101, Power99FM and currently has her own Sunday afternoon program on WRNB and Saturday morning talk program on Praise 103.9FM.

 

EgoPo is particularly excited to be working with Turner, who will be playing Mr. Shelby as well as choreographing. In 2000, Turner was named "Top 25 to Watch" by Dance Magazine; his ability to transform radical ideas into joyful movement will be the key to transforming Uncle Tom's Cabin. This world premiere production marks Turner's first major project within the Philadelphia theater and dance world since 2006.

 

Performing this revolutionary play and facilitating community dialogue on race is extremely important for the Philadelphia community. Philadelphia, like much of urban America, has a crisis of racial division due to historic lines between black and white neighborhoods as well as the high correlation of race with socio-economic class.

 

Uncle Tom's Cabin: An Unfortunate History runs May 31 through June 9 at Plays and Players Theater. Wednesday through Friday performances are at 8 pm; Saturday performances are at 2 pm and 8 pm; Sunday performances are at 5 pm. Tickets range from $20 - $32. For tickets, please call 267-273-1414 or visit www.egopo.org.