Evangeline Colarossi—Staff Writer
The Virginia Repertoire Theatre, a traveling acting troupe based out of Richmond, made Dordt College their last stop on their tour on Monday, January 11. They performed the musical Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in the early afternoon, with a turnout that filled two-thirds of the B.J. Haan.
Harriet Tubman, a slave in the 1800s, decided to run away from her master in 1849 and head north. After crossing the border, a friend named Estelle told her about the Underground Railroad. After she became one of the conductors, Tubman traveled south to bring slaves north. She used common songs and hymns as codes to warn travelling slaves of immediate danger, saving 756 people from slavery. Tubman’s story conveys her as a “Moses” of her people.
The cast of five held a question-and-answer session for the audience after their performance, in which they melded different scenes and locations while conveying different stories through acting.
The narration constantly changed between each performer as they shared their storytelling skills through various voices. The musical finished with the ringing lines of “the test of what you think is what you’ll do. What happens next, what happens now, is up to you.”
The actors on tour included Charlotte Topp, Nora Ogunleye, Chris Craige, Olivia Jones, and Cameron Smith. Elementary students from Kinsey Elementary and Sioux Center Christian School claimed most of the seating, while older locals filled in the rest of the audience.
The crew began to learn the lines, choreography, stage cues and songs at the start of January and spent two weeks on memorization and practice. Since then, they have brought the show on the road across many states. The performers work full time for the theatre. Each day, they work on their current or future performances from 9-5.
“It’s difficult having a friend [in the play] use the N-word to me and be mean about it several times a week,” Jones said. Since the audience was primarily students, the actors omitted this phrase, but said they do use it during most of their performances for authenticity.
“This play gives such a powerful message about doing the right thing in the midst of animosity,” Ogunleye said. The actors believe this play can show an audience of all ages how to make the right choices in any situation.
The troop returned to Virginia after its Dordt performance to switch out sets, costumes, and crew members. The following Friday, they will start touring the play Stuart Little.