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A divisive era comes to the stage
For the 13th year, Five Acre School continues its series of all-school plays that don’t shy away from strong subject matter or complicated song-and-dance routines.
“Bound For Freedom,” written by Five Acre co-owner Juanita Ramsey-Jevne, focuses on 1850s America with perspectives on the culture and history of that crucial time as the nation’s divisions pulled it toward the Civil War.
A free public performance is at 7 p.m. Friday, March 25, at Peninsula College’s Little Theatre, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd., Port Angeles.
Student actors and musicians — 45 total — present a story of escape from slavery, the exploration of women’s rights and the Trail of Tears. They’ll perform 15 songs and dances from the era.
All winter Five Acre School students have been exploring their play’s subject.
In the 1850s, the nation, which 75 years earlier had been “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” found itself tearing in two over the issue of slavery; Native American inhabitants were forcibly confined to reservations and women were without substantial legal rights — still 70 years away from the right to vote.
Each of the 32 Explorer Class students, third-sixth grades, plays an integral character of the times, from a peg-legged sea-rover-turned-abolitionist to a hard-hearted slave owner to a slave traveling the Underground Railroad to freedom.
Students have to dress, walk, talk, think, feel and act like the 1850s persons they are portraying.
Ramsey-Jevne said students reach a far deeper understanding by immersing themselves in the characters than by reading and discussing the topics alone.
She promises the production is lively and positive despite its serious subject matter.
Music of the time
The play’s music conveys much of the emotion, Ramsey-Jevne said, and it’s always an integral part of the school’s curriculum. All songs are from the time period and reflect past issues. Students perform sea chanteys, square dances, secret slavery songs, ballads, laments and spirituals. In the finale, the “Buckeye Dancers” from the Kindergarten-second-grade Discovery Class brings the production to an exuberant and joyous conclusion.
‘Bound for’ beginnings
“Bound for Freedom” was first written and performed in the winter of 2004 by Ramsey-Jevne.
She said the play is the summation of a number of sources. The school’s Explorer Class brainstormed and researched issues from 1785-1850 while she investigated music and folk tales and found primary sources for slave narratives, women’s rights conventions, and musical groups of the time.
Classroom teacher Tom Harris suggested locating the play on the Ohio River, which was the focus of much Underground Railroad activity.
“We narrowed the time frame. Gradually all the ideas mixed together and all the characters started talking in my head. I typed them into the computer and the play took shape,” Ramsey-Jevne said.
She modified the script extensively this year to fit the current Explorer Class students. Many of the cast members of the original production seven years ago plan to be in the audience. The show has three acts with one intermission.
For more information, contact Five Acre School, 515 Lotzgesell Road, Sequim, at 681-7255 or email@example.com.