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Monday, March 21, 2011

What: Weber Reads! Readers Theatre: Scenes from the "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself" @ WSU (Ogden: March 22)

Weber Reads: Readers Do Theatre, Too!

Who: Weber State University
What: Weber Reads! Readers Theatre: Scenes from the "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself" by Harriet Jacobs
adaptation by Angela Berryman Choberka
When: 22 March, 12:30 pm
Where: Hetzel-Hoellein Room, Stewart Library, WSU Campus
Free and open to the public

Weber State University Department of Performing Arts presents a readers theatre production of "Scenes from the 'Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself' " by Harriet Jacobs, adaptation by Angela Berryman Choberka. The performance is March 22, 12:30 pm, in the Hetzel-Hoellein Room, Stewart Library on the Weber State University campus. The audience is invited to discuss the play immediately following this free performance. This production is part of the Weber Reads! 2011 project, with this year's book being autobiographies by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.

Jacob's book, published in 1861, is considered a slave narrative and, in modern times, an example of feminist literature. Under the pen name "Linda Brent" Jacobs deals particularly with the troubles experienced by female slaves, including sexual harassment and abuse. Choberka's adaptation distills the book into several crucial scenes that give the modern audience an understanding of Jacobs' life as a slave.

Jacobs' life is ideal until she grows to understand her real status as a slave. While treated well by several early mistresses - one even teachers her to read and write - she eventually becomes the property of Dr. Norcam, an prominent member of his community whose private behavior does not serve his "Christian" values. Jacobs eventually escapes but stays hidden in the attic of her grandmother for seven years before she is able to escape to the North. The heart breaking details of her life keeps the audience mesmerized by her incredible courage in the face of the horrors of slavery.

Choberka was a member of a writing project at WSU in the summer of 2011 that brought teachers of English together to write the elementary and secondary school curriculum guide for Weber Reads! 2011. She came to the project well versed in the Jacobs story, as she had previously included it in several of her classes in the past. The series of events for Weber Reads! 2011 created a perfect venue for her "dreamed of" play about Harriet.

Workshopping the script with the performers and other theatre faculty has been part of the process. The premiere performance of the play is the completion of step one in her plan. The play can be developed into a full-length script and may also be presented later in the season with audio-visual elements.

The cast includes Rita Martin as the voice of Harriet the author; Alicia Washington as the voices of Harriet in her younger years; Jan Hamer as Jacobs' editor; and Caril Jennings, as the scholar filling in historical details of Jacobs' era. Rita Martin, in addition to her many other roles in community life, was recently seen as one of the Delany sister in the Grand Theatre's "Having Our Say." Alicia Washington is a WSU theatre alumna who is now appearing in many SLC productions, including "A New Brain," and "Hairspray." Jan Hamer is a WSU English faculty member and a frequent performer in readers theatre at WSU. Caril Jennings is the marketing director for the WSU Department of Performing Arts and produces several readers theatre performances every year.

For more information about the readers theatre production, contact:
Caril Jennings, crjennings@weber.edu
Angela CHOBERKA: angelachoberka@weber.edu

More info about Weber Reads! 2011: Kathryn MacKay, WSU Weber Reads! project director, 801-626-6782 or kmackay@weber.edu
Weber County Library project leader: Lynnda Wangsgard, Director, Weber County Library System
801-337-2618 or lwangsgard@weberpl.lib.ut.us

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