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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Four stages of Harriet Tubman’s life portrayed by, from left, Jordaje Sankara, Jasmine Barnes, Tina Gasnarez and Ameerah Woods.

  • Youtheatre presents “Young Harriet Tubman” this weekend.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Youtheatre presents "Young Harriet Tubman" this weekend.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Tina Gasnarez portrays an adult Harriet Tubman in the Fort Wayne Youtheatre production of "Young Harriet Tubman."  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Youtheatre presents "Young Harriet Tubman" this weekend.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Four stages of Harriet Tubman's life portrayed by, from the left, Jordaje Sankara, Jasmine Barnes, Tina Gasnarez and Ameerah Woods.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Youtheatre presents "Young Harriet Tubman" this weekend.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Ameerah Woods portrays a teenage Harriet Tubman in the Fort Wayne Youtheatre production of "Young Harriet Tubman."  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Four stages of Harriet Tubman's life portrayed by, from the left, Jordaje Sankara, Jasmine Barnes, Tina Gasnarez and Ameerah Woods.  

Friday, February 02, 2018 1:00 am

Youtheatre looks at life of 'Young Harriet Tubman'

If you go

What: “Young Harriet Tubman”

When: 7 p.m. today, 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: ArtsLab, 300 E. Main St.

Admission: $18 adult, $12 children and seniors; 422-4226 or tickets.artstix.org

When we think about Harriet Tubman, most of us remember what we learned in school about her work with the Underground Railroad. This weekend, Fort Wayne Youtheatre rolls back the clock a little further.

“Young Harriet Tubman” explores what kind of young woman Tubman was and shows what she went through being born into slavery and growing up on a plantation, says writer and director Gregory Stieber.

The show checks in on her at ages 6 and 11, as a teenager and later as a woman. It begins with a class of students in mid-1980s Indiana questioning why there is a Black History Month. The students then walk through the historical action as it happens, observing Tubman's early life.

There are appearances by other children of her era such as slave children, the children of slave-owners and members of a Quaker family. Quakers played a major role in the abolitionist movement.

The play aims to take a broad subject like slavery and make it something the young audience can understand.

“When we relate it to one major person from history, such as Harriet Tubman, it can take a massive subject and pare it down to something where we can present a story to audiences that is accessible and that has a continuity throughout it,” Stieber says.

The show features 38 youth actors and eight adults. Tubman is played in the different stages of her young life by Jordaje Sankara, Jasmine Barnes, Ameerah Woods and Tina Gasnarez.

Though the show features children, it does include the N-word five times for authenticity. Stieber says the play looks at our history, both good and bad, without shying away.

That is a recurring theme in Youtheatre's Young Heroes of Conscience Series, which was recently honored with one of the inaugural Mayor's Arts Awards. Previous installments have included the stories of Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White.

The writer-director calls the series the most important thing he's done in his career and credits the community, Youtheatre board and parents of the actors for their support.

“It's exceptional for our community to have this series,” Stieber says.

– Corey McMaken, The Journal Gazette