Harriet Tubman inspires students from the stage at Senior High

Members of the Great Works touring theater company of Chicago prepare in the dressing room at Mansfield Senior High before taking the stage for “Tubman: Road to Freedom.”

      Abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman came alive before more than 1,000 intermediate and middle school students from nine schools Thursday in the Mansfield Senior High auditorium.

      “Tubman: Road to Freedom” was presented by the six-member cast of Great Works, a professional touring company from Chicago. The troupe’s two performances were sponsored by the Children’s Theatre Foundation of Mansfield.

      Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and later risked her life to lead approximately 70 slaves to freedom on 13 separate trips to the North, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

      Eight hundred and fifty-seven students filled the auditorium for the 9:45 a.m. performance; another 150 saw a repeat performance at 12:30 p.m.

      The audiences included 240 sixth-graders from Malabar Intermediate School and more than 200 from Mansfield Middle School. Other participating schools included Lexington Central Elementary, Mansfield Christian, St. Joseph’s of Crestline, St. Mary, South Central, Ashland Taft and Richland School of Academic Arts.

      Interest in Tubman’s life has soared recently, in large part because of the motion picture “Harriet” and the campaign to have her image on the 20-dollar bill.

      LaRose Washington, in the role of Tubman, heads the six-member Great Works cast.

      “It’s such an iconic story, such an incredible story,” said Washington, 25. “Harriet Tubman was fierce, persistent and successful. It is an honor to portray her on stage.”

      Bruce Sliney, president of the nonprofit Children’s Theatre Foundation, was in the auditorium before the shows, helping to assure that all was in place. His wife, Julie, a retired Mansfield City Schools teacher, worked on preparing school seating assignments.

      “Our whole intent is to bring professional theater to the Mansfield area for students in kindergarten through high school,” Bruce Sliney said. “For many, it’s an experience they have never had.”

      Since 1980 the Children’s Theatre Foundation has staged live theater presentations for various age groups.

      This season’s remaining schedule includes “The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favourites” for children in preschool through third grade on March 26 at the Renaissance Theatre.

      On May 5 the Lexington, Ky, Children’s Theatre will present “The Princess and the Pea” for grades two through five at the Renaissance.

      For more information for times and tickets go to childrenstheatrefoundation.com

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