Paula Neiman has chosen to tell the whole story of Nat Turner, leader
of a daring but doomed slave revolt, from the time of his birth to the
date of his death in 1831. Most contemporary playwrights would deal only
with a corner of Turners life, utilizing (for economic reasons)
a cast of, say, six or seven actors. Neiman, obviously, likes to think
big. Not only does her play span thirty years but it requires a cast of
fifteen actors, many of whom play multiple roles.
Its fair to say, then, that NAT TURNER: FOLLOWING FAITH is an epic
work, an historical drama conceived and executed on a grand scale.
now in a world premiere run at Theater/Theatre, was directed by Dan Martin,
among whose acting credits are stints with the famed Negro Ensemble Company
in New York. Only a seasoned pro like him could have tackled such an immense
project and brought it off so well. The man deserves some kind of an award.
The same goes for NAT TURNERS cast, led by Tarnue Massaquoi (as
Turner), Asante Jones (as the narrator, Gabriel Prosser), Darius Dudley
(as Hubbard, Nats spiritual father), Sade Moore and Baadja-Lyn Ouba
(Nats mother and grandmother, respectively). The rest of the large,
talented cast should not be slighted either; they are simply too numerous
to identify here. Credit should also be paid to the productions
technical team, especially set designer Vali Tirsoaga, costume designer
Mauva Gacitua, lighting designer Sammie Wayne IV, and sound designer Jaimyon
Parker. Together they have found a way to turn Theatre/Theaters
stage into a Virginia ante-bellum plantation replete with big-house porch,
cotton fields and slave quarters, all of which are later transformed into
a battle-field, a court house and even the gallows upon which Turner met
Neiman tells, in rich, poetic language, is a powerful and heart-breaking
one, a tragic piece of American history which should never be forgotten.
The child of a young woman who was raped by her master, Turner
showed great intelligence and charisma from the start, only to be denied
the opportunity to use his gifts by his white overlords, who preferred
that he remain a field hand.
Frustrated at every turn in his life, Turner continued to read everything
he could, especially the Holy Bible, many of whose strictures he took
to heart, especially the ones from Exodus (I will deliver thee from
bondage). Thats exactly what he tried to do when he assembled
a band of sixty blacksa slave cavalryand led them
into battle against the local slave-owners, thinking this would encourage
the hundreds of thousands of southern slaves to join the revolt and kill
their venal, brutal masters. This desperate attack on the slave system
ended in failure (partially because Turner was betrayed by one of his
own men), but as Neiman points out, the seeds of black pride and militancy
were planted. The final result of that insurrection was emancipation and
This story summary doesnt do justice to the scope, depth and complexity
of NAT TURNER, or to its power and importance.
(Theater/Theatre, 5041 Pico Blvd. 213-529-5153 or buytickets.at/nat