Wheatley Book

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Wheatley Details

The real life, storybook adventures of Phillis Wheatley; a revolutionary American slave girl, whose poetic genius lifted her from New England parlor trick into the great salons of Europe and beyond. Follow her travels with the Countess Selena, Ben Franklin, and the Admiralty from Boston to London and back, where she will find love in the arms of Samson Osee Power Frock - free man of color. "WOW! ... a comic-book exclamation may be the only word left in the wake of the grand torrent of language, movement and sublime imagination on display in this world premiere ... What a sense of awe and astonishment is generated by this ninety-minute fantasia on the life and legacy of Phillis Wheatley, the African American poet who became a literary celebrity in the era of the American Revolution - and the first of her race to be published in this country. And what a profound and intriguing story it tells about race and art in America, and about the singular nature of creative genius ... Never heard of Wheatley? Neither had I. So here's the one-minute version of her life: She was born in Senegal in 1753, brought to the Boston slave market at age seven and purchased by the well-to-do businessman John Wheatley at the urging of his wife, Susannah, who took a fancy to her beauty and spirit. From the start she was a slave, and wasn't a slave - a girl set apart, who was taught to read and write, was exposed to Greek and Latin and the Bible, and easily fell under the spell of a preacher's orations. Wheatley's first poem was published in 1767. A collection of her work was issued six years later in London. And for a brief time she became all the rage there, meeting the swells of society and, not incidentally, making the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin. But society ultimately grew bored with and skeptical of her, and the poet made her 'second passage' to America, falling in love, having children and worrying that her poetic gift might be lost. By the age of thirty-one she was dead, though, as Carter suggests, something of her voice echoes down through the centuries, informing everything from the blues and jazz to the scratchin' of a hip-hop D J. Lonnie Carter is the polymorphous Victory Gardens wordsmith who last season gave us THE ROMANCE OF MAGNO RUBIO. Part James Joyce, part John Coltrane, part Diddy, he often is mistaken for African American, but is a white writer fascinated with the way English has been reshaped by black culture. Carter's WHEATLEY is no docudrama; it is in fact spun into pure invention that comes out in the form of a richer truth. (The play's riff on globalization should be performed at the next World Bank get-together.) The same is true of Scruggs' superb direction, which employs a slew of deft theatrical tricks and taps the talent of a quartet of actors who must have had nightmares while learning Carter's dense, tongue-twisting, mind-bending text ..." -Hedy Weiss, The Chicago Sun-Times
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