Freedom, slavery, divided families and divided loyalties amid the tragedy of a Civil War are dramatically brought into focus with the special theatrical presentation of “Torn Asunder . . .The Civil War Midstream.” A collaborative effort between the Baltimore School for the Arts, Maryland Historical Society, the National Park Service, and HHI, the production showcases four scenes that illustrate the human side of the conflict. The first public performance will be held at 2:00 p.m. on April 27 at Hampton National Historic Site on the porch at the Farmhouse. This production is free of charge as part of National Parks Week and lasts approximately one hour. It includes four original scenes that illustrate the complexity of race relations during the Civil War:
“Caught in Between” Inspired by an actual event on the Hampton estate, this scene explores the interrelationships between the overseer, his family and the enslaved. When a young abolitionist girl visiting her sister (the overseer’s wife) teaches an enslaved boy to read, severe punishment ensues and the reputations of all are at stake.
“Mothers” This scene illustrates the struggles of mixed race families, personal allegiance and the desire for freedom. Two African-American mothers fear that their sons may wind up on opposing ends of the conflict when one son is forced to become a servant to a Confederate officer and another contemplates joining the Union Army.
“Crossed Paths” A fugitive slave and Confederate deserter make an uneasy alliance as they both seek their own version of freedom. Based on the Civil War letters, “Crossed Paths” confronts the grim realities of total war experienced by combat veterans versus the romantic notions held by families back home. It also highlights the irony that although a slave state, many free African-Americans from Maryland joined the Union Army.
“World Undone” Inspired by an actual occurrence on the Hampton estate, when an assertive former slave arrives on the estate to claim clothing given to her by her free husband , the white mistress, her daughter, and an enslaved domestic servant have something to say about it. This scene reflects the powerful social change that took place in Maryland with the coming of the abolition of slavery during the Civil War.
Students and faculty from Baltimore School for the Arts (BSA) worked together to develop scripts and produce the performances. The leading pre-professional arts high school in the country, the BSA theater department teaches the craft of acting and theater production along with a college prepatory academic curriculum. Students developed the themes for the plays by conducting research at the Maryland Historical Society’s (MdHS) library. “Students engaged in the historian’s craft and were immersed in the world of the 1860s by closely analyzing personal letters, and other materials from MdHS’s archives,” says MdHS education coordinator Kristin Schenning. They then visited Hampton NHS for inspiration. “This takes the classroom outside of the classroom – the public is in for a real treat,” says Chief of Interpretation Vincent Vaise.