Playwrights Bring Slavery Past to Present

As part of the Princeton & Slavery Project, McCarter Theater has commissioned seven innovative playwrights to bring the issues and ideas to life. One is “The Torch” by Nathan Alan Davis, a New York-based playwright and author of the plays “Nat Turner in Jerusalem,” “Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea,” and “The Wind and the Breeze.”

His “The Torch” reflects both the project and our era — one where a new generation of Americans are confronting the questionable moral legacy of cultural icons who loom in statues and names over the present.

Here a young black woman arrives on the Princeton campus to address the legacy of legendary Princeton University president, Declaration of Independence signer, and slave owner John Witherspoon.

While the confrontation between the past and present is intriguing, the arrival of a black police officer to stop the young woman introduces another level of conflict and questioning.

It also goes to the heart of the works of the playwright, who writes in a statement: “I am compelled by transcendence. By our ability to reframe, re-imagine, and re-define the world as we move through it. I love Hip Hop and the spirit that animates it. I am haunted by the injustices of our collective history. I write to call account and to revive the dead. I seek out humor — laughter it is not merely a comfort, but the joyful elation felt when truth finally knocks on the door. I am a playwright of mixed race. The African Diaspora and the Western Tradition are both essential parts of my identity. I do not forsake one for the other. I let them collide, support, and invigorate each other. I am a Baha’i. I work for the realization of an ever advancing, united world civilization.”

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