Written by Barry M. Putt, Jr.
Directed by Steve Gaissert
A Staged Reading about Edmonia Lewis presented Virtually
Edmonia: Taloria Merricks
Karen: Chelsea Cylinder
Mrs. Dascomb/Miss Kastle/Prosecutor: Michelle Pauls*
Clifford: Anthony Goss
*denotes member of Actors' Equity Association
Playwright: Barry M. Putt, Jr.
Director: Steve Gaissert
Stage Manager: Jessica Fisgaer
Dramaturg: Megan Schumacher
Technical Specialist: John Kolbinski
We'd like to give a special thank you to Fordham University and Theatre Authority
Journey back to pre-Civil War era Oberlin, Ohio, where a mixed-race -- Black and Chippewa -- orphan is sent by her family to prep-school for a chance at a better life. As she struggles to adapt to a new culture and language, Edmonia Lewis discovers her talent in art. Oppressive forces, however, soon put up blockades that threaten to stand in the way of her hopes of becoming a world-class sculptor.
As we watch the trial of the man accused of murdering George Floyd unfold, as state laws that severely limit voting rights for a segment of our nation are passed, and as the pandemic ravages some of us more brutally than others, we ask, “How did we get here?”
Our knee-jerk reaction is often to assign blame to others. But we need to look at ourselves in the mirror if we want to ensure that the arc of history bends toward justice, and theatre can serve as that mirror. Sometimes what we see on stage depresses us, but it can inspire us too. Theatre can model approaches to solving our problems. Watching a character struggle and fail, or struggle and succeed, is a safe way for us to test out those approaches.
As we witness this story about the incomparable Edmonia Lewis, we see her struggle to discover her gift, fight against racism and misogyny, prove her potential, and keep her eyes on the path ahead until the light at the end of the tunnel appears for her. Her life inspires us to believe these things are possible.
Thank you for gazing into the mirror of this important story with us and sharing this experience with our incredible cast and crew. I hope “Edmonia” speaks to you as powerfully as it does to me.
Dramaturgy Notes provided by Megan Schumacher
In 1859, Edmonia Lewis arrived at Oberlin Academy Preparatory School in Ohio. The child of a mixed-race couple and orphaned at a young age — her father was a freed slave of Haitian origin and her mother was mixed race, half Chippewa and half Black — Oberlin provided Edmonia opportunities not often afforded to people of color in antebellum America. While we will never fully know what it was like for Edmonia to attend this school so far from home, we do know that Edmonia’s experience at Oberlin was fraught. Accused of attempted murder, the victim of racial violence, and eventually expelled, Edmonia persevered going on to become the accomplished and celebrated sculptor that we recognize today.
For more information about Edmonia Lewis and the Ojibwe people, check out these sites:
Learn about The Death of Cleopatra:
Lewis’s sculpture, The Death of Cleopatra, had quite a journey before it found a home at the Smithsonian Institute.
Try your hand at this fun quiz to learn more about that journey.
Taloria Merricks (Edmonia) - Taloria Merricks is super excited to be playing the role of Edmonia in Edmonia. Being able to portray such a beautiful historic individual and share her story is truly an honor. Her past roles have included, Ensemble in Bright Star and Anything Goes, Follies Girl in The Drowsy Chaperone, and Leading Player in Pippin. Taloria continues to pursue her passion in all forms of the performing arts with the help and of God and her family.
Chelsea Cylinder (Karen): Chelsea is an actress, singer, teaching artist, and producer, most recently seen live as Tinker Bell in Peter Pan at The Broadway Theatre Of Pitman, and most recently seen virtually in Crossover: A New Pop Musical with Green Light Group Productions. She is a graduate of the University Of Pennsylvania. Other favorite acting credits include Chess (Florence), How To Succeed In Business…Trying (Rosemary), Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead (Rosencrantz), and The 25th Annual…Spelling Bee (Logainne). Chelsea would like to thank Steve, Georgina, the cast and crew, her parents, and Peter. @cecylinder
Michelle Pauls (Mrs. Dascomb/Miss Kastle/Prosecutor): Michelle is an Equity actor, singer, director, producer, teaching artist, playwright, and, most recently, web series creator! Michelle is writer, director, and one of the stars of the mini-web series, SPEAKING OF FAMILY. For over 15 years she ran her own theatre company in Philadelphia, Walking Fish Theatre, and won a Barrymore Award for Educational Excellence & Community Service. She was a founding member of the long-form improvisation troupe, Bright Invention. She teaches theatre at Penn State Abington. She is a trained facilitator in Theatre of the Oppressed, which she has used to examine race, racism, gender issues, and more in her teaching and theatre work. Michelle loves Nature, exercise, good food, wine, and theatre!
View the min-webseries, SPEAKING OF FAMILY on YouTube
Anthony Goss (Clifford): Anthony Goss is an actor from Boston, MA based in NYC. He has appeared on various New York City stages such as the Metropolitan Playhouse, Gene Frankel Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, and the hit Off-Broadway Touring play, Black Angels Over Tuskegee. He has worked on a growing list of independent film and TV credits including, Law & Order SVU and FBI. As a writer, he is currently developing several film projects and looks to continue to grow his craft. He believes in the power of theatre to positively impact the world and is an advocate for youth arts. It’s a great privilege to work on this project and represent the life of a trailblazing woman and artist in Edmonia.