Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Black and White: A Brief Overture to Dartmoor Prison

By Andrew E.T. Kron, Marketing Intern

This Thursday our much-anticipated New Stages Amplified series begins with Carlyle Brown’s Dartmoor Prison. For more information on the series check out this post from back in July. Dartmoor Prison will only be staged for 12 performances, and tickets are all only $10 or $20 each, so don’t miss your chance to see this riveting new work while it’s here!

In Dartmoor Prison, playwright Carlyle Brown explores two concrete ideas: the will of man and the ultimate goal of survival. The play is very much a tale of war—it's set in Devon, England, during the War of 1812 inside an ominous reformatory known as Dartmoor Prison. But what begins as a story of willpower and endurance transforms into an entirely different tale within itself.

In Dartmoor Prison, the holding pens are policed by soldiers of the British Empire. (A brief historical note: the War of 1812 was a three-year conflict between the United States and Great Britain.) The inhabitants of Dartmoor Prison are, of course, prisoners, and are American prisoners at that, sailors the British have captured. But the premise gets even more intriguing by what exactly is happening inside the walls of the penitentiary—the American captives stationed inside Dartmoor Prison have been divided up, segregated into two very specific groups: blacks and whites.

So there is the set-up. A prison yard, run by the British, holding American sailors during the War of 1812.

Very black and white, yes?

Not quite.

Inside Dartmoor Prison, walls do not hold any such measure of human segregation. Black, white, British, American—it doesn’t matter. In the end, every man inside and outside of that prison is fighting for just one simple thing: freedom. But freedom comes at a price, and as we find in this new play, in a place like Dartmoor Prison, in the Summer of 1814, that idea of freedom might come at the price of being black or white.

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