Free Territory or Slave? Walat's Bleeding Kansas Premieres in Ithaca Aug. 1

News   Free Territory or Slave? Walat's Bleeding Kansas Premieres in Ithaca Aug. 1 Bleeding Kansas, Kate Walat's new play set in pre-Civil War Kansas, when settlers clashed over the issue of slavery, gets its world premiere Aug. 1 at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY.

Hangar artistic director Kevin Moriarty directs the drama, which runs to Aug. 11. Walat is a former Hangar Lab Company Playwright. Her Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen had an Off-Broadway run in 2006-07.

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According to Hangar notes, "Set against the backdrop of pre-Civil War Kansas territory, Bleeding Kansas shines a contemporary light on an oft-overlooked page from America's history and asks today's audiences to consider the question: How far will you go for what you believe?"

According to production notes, in 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed legal settlers in the territory of Kansas to vote on whether or not the territory would enter the union as a "free" or a "slave" state. When pro-slavery Southerners crossed the border from Missouri, voting fraud became rampant, and the territory became divided by a conflict that erupted in violence. This period in history is known as "Bleeding Kansas."

Walat refers to the period as "a snapshot of a country, politically divided and ready to shed blood over issues of God and man." The play follows the intertwining lives of homesteaders in the Kansas territory, each representing a different political, social and most importantly, human take on the issue of slavery in their new state.

Director Moriarty stated, "In 1854 a small group of fiercely motivated individuals felt called by their God to end a moral wrong in their country. When they failed to achieve change peacefully and legally, they turned to acts of violence against their neighbors — civilians with no direct stake in the conflict. John Brown was part of this wave of terror, which helped lead up to a full-scale civil war. This mixture of religious certainty, political powerlessness, and neighbors with diametrically opposed beliefs in a single community can be seen in our own country's current divide between 'Red' and 'Blue' states, and, more explosively, in conflicts around the world."

In 2002 Walat joined the theatre as a Lab Company Playwriting Resident when her script Know Dog was produced in The Wedge. The Hangar later commissioned her to write the script for Androcles and the Lion, the 2004-2005 School Tour production that will be reprised this summer as part of the Hangar's Kiddstuff season.

In addition to working with the Hangar, Walat has had plays produced at The Women's Project (Off-Broadway's recent Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen), Actors Theatre of Louisville, Salvage Vanguard Theater, Perishable Theatre, and developed at Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club, Ars Nova, Boston Theatre Works, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, The Lark, and New Georges, where she is an affiliated playwright.

The cast of Bleeding Kansas includes Jessi Campbell, a native of Kansas; Marc Aden Gray; Amy Landon; Jedadiah Schultz (whose name is known as a character from Moises Kaufman's The Laramie Project); and Matthew Stucky.

The creative team includes Beowulf Boritt (scenic designer), Ben Stanton (lighting designer), Jennifer Caprio (costume designer) and Ryan Rumery (sound designer).

For more information about Hangar Theatre, call (607) 273-4497 or visit www.hangartheatre.org.