This is a true story. The events depicted in this play took place in Northern Louisiana from 1842 to 1856. Telling this story cannot atone for the sin of American slavery, for nothing can atone for the sin of slavery in a "free" country: a state has no soul, and therefore can never find forgiveness. Instead, the play seeks to help prevent slavery's reoccurrence. THE PRICELESS SLAVE is a chronicle of human obligations. Four human members of antebellum society exist in the shadow of a wider social system: here, in the shadows, they built their lives. Each character has the opportunity to fight against that social system, but in doing so they attack their own way of life, and trivialize their own hard-earned morsels of dignity.
Welcome to the world of The Priceless Slave, where forgotten stories return to life, and challenge the moral values of both our past and present. Written by J. M. Meyer, and directed by Gary Jaffe, THE PRICELESS SLAVE challenges the status quo to uphold the true meaning of “freedom.”
In the world of THE PRICELESS SLAVE, five characters represent the struggles seen in this antebellum society. Their descriptions and the synopsis are given below:
ALEXIS CLÉREL is an older English woman who married young, but her much older American husband died quickly and left her far less money than expected. Paulina is Alexis' friend and sometime benefactor, despite significant differences in age and background. Paulina and Alexis live vicariously through each other, and take this living very seriously, so much so that when one makes a move, the other feels some ownership of the act. Alexis believes it is important for Paulina to uphold her end of the friendship by becoming an established, respectable matron.
GEORGE PAYSINGER is a middle-aged architect and foreman owned by Senator John Hamter. James Gilmer has convinced Paysinger that his destiny is to help pull Northern Louisiana out of the frontier and into civilization. Paysinger's proudest moment thus far was the construction of Orchard Place Plantation. He might be an anti-hero.
PAULINA DEGRAFFENRIED GILMER is the wealthiest landowner in Northern Louisiana. She approaches thirty years of age, and is married to James Blair Gilmer, whom she will divorce in 1856. She is the widow of James Pickett, one of the seven founders of Shreveport, Louisiana; her first marriage is the primary source of her wealth. Pickett dies in 1842, one year prior to her marriage to James Gilmer. Paulina has three children from her first marriage; she will outlive all three. The play takes place in her home, Orchard Place Plantation.
THOMAS JEFFERSON is the third president of the United States of America, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and the play's only centenarian. As president, he oversaw the purchase of the Louisiana territory from France.
SALLY GILMER SPYKER is the young wife of Leonidas Spyker, and younger sister of James Gilmer. At the beginning of the play, she visits her sister-in-law, Paulina, for the first time. Sally just married Leonidas in New Orleans, and does not know that Paulina and Leonidas shared a brief relationship. Sally is not as naïve or simple as anyone would like, including herself; she understands the protective benefits of socialization and group-think.
When Paulina DeGraffenried and George Paysinger receive word of James Gilmer's incriminating social indiscretion, each separately considers fleeing the constraints of their own social positions: Paysinger leaves; Paulina does not. Paulina panics at Paysinger's absence, and forfeits her James' trust to maintain her social status in wider society. James' sister, Sally Gilmer, discovers that Paysinger has been hiding beneath the porch of Orchard Plantation, the antebellum home he built with his own hands. Paulina recognizes that her forfeiture of her husband's trust places her children at risk, and she decides to abandon her marriage altogether.
In the world of The Priceless Slave, everyone is needed. To make this play be the best it can be, we not only need the talent and discipline of our cast and crew, but we also need you. By contributing to this world, you become a part of it.
You make The Priceless Slave come to life.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Although sponsorship from the University of Texas Co-op has provided a generous budget allowance for our project in the Cohen New Works Festival, that budget only covers costs such as prop construction, script printing, and other basic supplies. We think it's essential that go out of our way to provide some form of compensation for the artists devoting hundreds of hours of labor to our show. Our Kickstarter campaign will allow us to reimburse our artists for all the incidental expenses associated with constructing a piece of theater.
About the writer and director’s credentials:
Johnny Meyer: (Writer) His last play, AMERICAN VOLUNTEERS, drew on his experiences as a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and explored the conflict between 21st century warfare and American values; the play received the 2010 Mitchell Award, and became the first stage-play to make the long-list for the United Kingdom's Dylan Thomas Prize.
Gary Jaffe: (Director) His professional work includes Spirits to Enforce (winner of the 2011 Critic's Table Award for Outstanding Drama) with Capital T Theatre, The Dudley's: A Family Game by Leegrid Stevens with Tutto Theatre Company (winner of eight 2011 B. Iden Payne Awards, including: Best Production of a Comedy and Best Director), The Alien Baby Play by Nicholas Walker Herbert (Tutto); his own play Love in Pine (LATCo); and The Twelfth Labor by Leegrid Stevens (Tutto).
Risks and challenges
The Priceless Slave is on a tight schedule with a limited amount of time until opening day on Monday March 25th. Fortunately, we have a bright and collaborative team of young professionals working hard to make this production a success. Working under pressure causes the entire team to stay on task and fulfill their duties to the utmost diligence.
Successfully crowd-funding our play through Kickstarter remains our most significant challenge, but we can meet that goal with your help! Luckily, the deadline to donate will occur after the final performance ends, so there is ample time to support our work with a small (or large) financial contribution!
As The Priceless Slave team stated in our video, we need YOUR support. This production will be the best it can be if you help us achieve our goals! Please come see our show, and please support our work in any way you can! Thank you!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Performed in the Sinclair Suite (3.128) at the Texas Union at the University of Texas at Austin campus.
March 25th at 8 PM
March 26th at 8 PM
March 27th at 8:30 PM
March 28th at 8 PM
March 29th at 6 PM
March 30th at 8 PM
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