Update from the Road: Abolition Movement in Farmington

Hey Everyone!

We’ve been hard at work on an exciting new project with the Stanley-Whitman House. This is a short recap on the project’s scope and what we’ve done so far! Keep tuned for more updates from the road and later this week as we announce some Fall Programming!

- Kristianna


What is it?

The Abolition Movement In Farmington is a joint venture of Via Arts and Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington. Over the past three years our partner has been working on the “Stanley-Whitman House Slavery Research Project.” They have been researching Farmington’s deep and complicated relationship with slavery. You can read more about their project here: http://captivepeople.stanleywhitman.org/

Through conversations about Community Based Theatre and Documentary Theatre, Stanley-Whitman House and Via Arts entered into a partnership to try and find a way to represent the research and connect it to our current world.


What have we done so far?

In the beginning of July, Via Arts, Stanley-Whitman House, and a small group of volunteers started to work. We have collected interviews with decedents of Farmington and contemporary community members, as well as delved into letters and words of some local historical figures. The guiding question of our work: What is the legacy of slavery? Armed with research and ideas we created a short piece and invited some community members to workshop it with us.


What’s a workshop?

We take the piece we have and present it to a group, but instead of being a traditional performance we invite them in on the writing process. Unlike a “show” a workshop embraces that the piece is not yet finished.


How did it go?

AMAZINGLY! On Thursday we asked a small group of community members to come and participate in our workshop. We asked them to take notes, give us ideas and share their initial reactions and questions from what they experienced. We not only had a nice turn out, but a really interesting conversation within our small group.


Can you give any specifics?

Of course! One of the major struggles of the type of theatre we are creating is that we want to be as authentic and truthful as possible. Meaning we are trying not to invent dialogue, but pull from actual statements made by people past and present. The difficulty in this is that many captive people that the Stanley-Whitman House has found have no words, what we know about them is their title or their name. To create dialogue for them is problematic, because we don’t know what they said. So as we create our piece we are trying to find the most ethical way to give these people a presence- as this play will be the only way they are acknowledged or known.

Much of our conversation on Thursday was focused around the best way to give them presence without usurping their voice.

We also discussed how best to connect the past to present. This was interesting as the group had many different thoughts as to what or if there is a present day legacy of slavery.


So what is next?

The next step is to take the feedback and continue to strengthen the piece until it becomes a grown-up play, so to speak. We are creating this piece with the community. Our next draft will include a larger and new group of community members adding their voices, talents, and expertise to this play. The wonderful thing about Community Based Theatre is that the conversations, interviews, and workshops we have with various people along the way can be just as impactful as our final project. In this way, our process creates a community as we venture forward creating a piece for our community!


Sounds awesome! Can I get involved?

Absolutely? If you’re interested in being part of the next writing phase, being interviewed, or being invited to our next workshop, email Kristianna! Kristianna@via-arts.org