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.
Written by Barry M. Putt, Jr.
Directed by Steve Gaissert
A Staged Reading about Edmonia Lewis
Presented Virtually April 8 - 11, 2021
Scroll Down to read more from our Director, Steve Gaissert; our Dramaturg, Megan Schumacher; and about our Cast!
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.
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.
Edmonia Lewis, circa 1870
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: https://create.kahoot.it/share/the-death-of-cleopatra/ed42e577-bec9-484a-854f-f9b04c88e6d2.
The Death of Cleopatra, 1876
Scroll Down to See Bios of Cast and Creative Team
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
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. www.chelseacylinder.com / @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... which you can see on YouTube. 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!
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.
Barry M. Putt, Jr. (Playwright): Barry M. Putt, Jr.’s plays have been performed in Canada, the UAE, and throughout the U.S. His published plays include: “Inside Out” (Next Stage Press), “It’s Only Logical” (Smith Scripts), and “The Gold Doubloon” (Routledge). Mr. Putt has scripted over 40 audio dramas for companies including: Colonial Radio Theatre, KSVR’s Radio Theatre Project, and Baicizhan Technologies. He is a member of the Witherspoon Circle, American Renaissance Theater Company, and the Dramatists Guild.
Steve Gaissert (Director): Steve is a member of the Directors Gathering in Philadelphia. He studied directing with Circle in the Square co-founder Jose Quintero, Elevator Repair Service Company in New York, Frantic Assembly Co., and Viewpoints with the EgoPo Theater. Steve perennially directs the N.J. performance of One-Minute Play Festival. Venues include Passage Theater in Trenton, Luna Stage in West Orange, and Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken. Previously, Steve was artistic director of the Princeton Street Theatre and director-in-residence at Theater/Dance Workshop in Lawrenceville.
Jessica Fisgaer (Stage Manager): Jess is a multifaceted theatre artist based in Philadelphia. She is currently a junior at Temple University, where she is in the theatre education 4+1 cohort and pursuing her M.Ed. in Secondary English Education, in addition to her B.A. in theatre. She values the importance of theatre in the lives of young artists and how theatre can be used as a vehicle to initiate change and highlight the voices of those who are underrepresented. Recent stage management credits include: The Laramie Project (Temple Theaters) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Arden Theatre Company) Instagram: @jessica_fisgaer
John Kolbinski (Technical Specialist): Digital work: D-Pad (Theatre Exile); Water by the Spoonful, Uncle Vanya, Men on Boats (Fordham); It's not a trip, It's a journey (Chautauqua Theater Co); Live Theater: Popcorn Falls, Civil War Voices, The Winter Wonderettes, Baskerville, Souvenir, Always…Patsy Cline (Walnut Street Theatre); Basic Witches (Robert Hager); Every Brilliant Thing (Arden/Milwaukee Rep). Audio Engineer: Arden Theatre Company, InterAct Theatre Company; Sound Supervisor, Chautauqua Theater Company. Sound Designer, Beyond the Story:Wonderful Podcast.
Megan Schumacher (Dramaturg): Megan Schumacher is a Philadelphia-based playwright, director, and dramaturg. She is a member of Simpatico Theatre’s Jouska PlayWorks and The Foundry at PlayPenn. Her play, Lowndes, debuted at the Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival in the fall of 2020, and her adaptation of Euripides’ The Bakkhai, titled Dionté and Khai Do Dinner, premiered virtually as part of Villanova Theatre’s 2020-21 season. Her play Superlosers, was produced for the 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and Monster Mash was performed as part of the Going Viral Festival on Facebook during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic of 2020, she served as a production dramaturg for Quintessence Theatre’s beautiful performance of Angelina Weld Grimké’s Rachel directed by Alexandra Espinoza. She directed Marissa Kennedy’s solo piece Out of the Shadows for the 2019 Philadelphia Fringe Festival and has directed several readings, including Daf James's On the Other Hand, We're Happy and Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children at Inis Nua Theatre and Alexandra Espinoza’s Homeridae during the 2019 Philadelphia Theatre Week. She holds an MA in Theatre from Villanova University.
We wish to express our gratitude to the Performers’ Unions:
ACTORS’ EQUITY ASSOCIATION
AMERICAN GUILD OF MUSICAL ARTISTS
AMERICAN GUILD OF VARIETY ARTISTS
through Theatre Authority, Inc. for their cooperation in permitting the Artists to appear on this