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April 1, 2011/FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/High-res photo available upon request
Media Contact: Liz Wooley, wooleyl@uncsa.edu, 336/734-2924



April 14-23 in Performance Place

WINSTON-SALEM – In the fall of 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a raid on the U.S. arsenal in the town of Harpers Ferry in what is now West Virginia. How that raid unfolded is the subject of the upcoming University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) production of Harpers Ferry.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. April 14-16 and 20-23, and at 2 p.m. April 17 and 23, in the Thrust Theatre in Performance Place on the UNCSA campus, 1533 South Main St., Winston-Salem.  Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors/students. Call the UNCSA Box Office at 336-721-1945 for reservations, or visit www.uncsa.edu/performances to purchase tickets online.

Directed by School of Drama adjunct faculty member John Dillon, Harpers Ferry was written by Barrie Stavis in 1960, a century after the events depicted in the play.  In it, Stavis presents the tale of John Brown, a white farmer who believed so strongly that man should not enslave his fellow man that he led a violent assault against the United States. His plan: to arm slaves with the weapons he and his men seized from the arsenal. Instead, he was captured, brought to trial and convicted of treason. On his final walk to his hanging on Dec. 2, 1859, Brown gave a hand-written note to one of his followers that said: “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” Fewer than 18 months after Brown’s execution, the first shots of the American Civil War were fired in Fort Sumter, S.C.

Photo by Allen G. Aycock

John Kagi (Patrick Osteen) tries to convince John Brown (Luke Smith) that Frederick Douglass is too valuable to the anti-slavery movement to join their upcoming raid of the U.S. Arsenal in Harpers Ferry, playing at UNCSA
April 14-23

It is no coincidence that Harpers Ferry follows UNCSA’s successful production of 1776.  The play was chosen for the 2010-2011 School of Drama season because it demonstrates how many of the issues surrounding the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence, including the abolishment of slavery, continued to be controversial and eventually ignited the Civil War. 

John Dillon’s previous credits at UNCSA include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Once in a Lifetime, Little Dorrit, Dead Souls, Pericles, Red Noses, The Good Person of Setzuan and The Ramayana. Dillon is the associate director of Tokyo’s award-winning Institute of Dramatic Arts, where his productions have twice won Japan’s highest theatre award. He’s the founding president of Theatre Puget Sound, a service organization for theatres and theatre workers in the Seattle area. From 1977 to 1993 he was the artistic director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and during his time there he launched a number of innovative exchanges with theatre companies in Mexico, Russia, Ireland, Chile, Japan and England. From 2004 to 2010 he served as the director of the theatre program at Sarah Lawrence College. He is also a Fellow in the College of Fellows of the American Theatre and a member of the National Theatre Conference. A Danforth and Woodrow Wilson scholar, he holds graduate degrees in theatre from Columbia and Northwestern universities.

Harpers Ferry is a large-cast production featuring Studio III and IV, School of Drama college juniors and seniors, many of whom play multiple roles.  

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is the first state-supported, residential school of its kind in the nation. Established as the North Carolina School of the Arts by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, UNCSA opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. More than 1,100 students from high school through graduate school train for careers in the arts in five professional schools: Dance, Design and Production (including a Visual Arts Program), Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. UNCSA is the state’s only public arts conservatory, dedicated entirely to the professional training of talented students in the performing, visual and moving image arts. UNCSA is located at 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.