Local author Lorene Cary will be presenting the world premiere of her play, My General Tubman, here in Philadelphia at the Arden Theatre. The production explores Harriet Tubman’s journey and the impact she still has today.
Cary’s first novel, The Price of a Child, was selected as the inaugural One Book, One Philadelphia in 2003. Her work includes a best-selling memoir, Black Ice, and novels such as Pride and If Sons, Then Heirs. She’s also the author of a young-adult book, FREE! Great Escapes from Slavery on the Underground Railroad.
Cary spoke with us about My General Tubman and her inspiration for the play which can be seen from January 16th to March 1, 2020 at Arden’s Arcadia Stage.
Q: What inspired you to write a play about Harriet Tubman and her story?
A: This project began when I saw a photo of Harriet Tubman at Cold Springs Village near Cape May, NJ, several years ago. The next morning, walking on the beach, when the dolphins came close to shore, I imagined Tubman, almost felt her like an ancestor, walking to the Cape May Hotel, where she worked in summer to make money for her winter sorties.
Q: There are a number of Underground Railroad safe houses in the area. Did you research or visit any while writing the play?
A: Since the 1990s I’ve been thinking about and researching the UGRR in Philadelphia. More than the safe houses, those stories have created for me a sense of community, and an urgency to find and tell them.
Q: Why should Philadelphians come see this production? What do you hope they will learn from the play?
I hope their imaginations will take on Harriet Tubman’s project to make a way out of no way to enlarge freedom.
Q: You have also written several books. Do you find playwriting to be a different experience? Is it more of a challenge?
A: Well, for sure, playwriting is a distinct and different. The writing must excite the theater professionals first: director, actors, designers, producers. Then they enact this story for and with a new group of people.
In a book, one writes humor to be enjoyed by a mind somewhere. But something funny in a theater makes people laugh together. Our laughter changes when others laugh with us, and depending on how they laugh. That’s just one for-instance. There’s time involved too, and sound and social connection. Part book; part church; part EZ-on, EZ-off sweat lodge for healing.