Last seen at Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in the 2016 SummerScape production of Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed, Bessie Award-winning actress/playwright Jennifer Kidwell returns to the campus October 9 through 12 to revive the Ars Nova production of her much-lauded Underground Railroad Game, along with the work’s co-creator, Scott R. Sheppard. Directed by Taibi Magar, the lacerating comedy is being presented as part of Bard’s Hannah Arendt Center’s annual conference, whose focus this year is “Racism and Antisemitism.”
By all accounts, Underground Railroad Game is an electrifying, discomfiting and transcendent piece of stagecraft. Its premiere production Off-Broadway copped the 2017 Obie Award for Best New American Theatre Work, along with rave reviews from New York City critics. It’s a pointed and hilarious look at the legacy of slavery in America and how that legacy influences contemporary dialogues around race: a most pertinent topic for this 400th-anniversary year of the arrival of the first enslaved peoples from Africa to this continent.
The premise of the play was inspired by an actual classroom roleplaying game that Sheppard experienced as a child in Hanover, Pennsylvania, in which middle schoolers were divided up into Union and Confederate battalions tasked with either retrieving or freeing black dolls representing escaped slaves. Kidwell and Sheppard portray teachers conducting the game, contemporary interracial lovers, Civil War-era historical figures and a variety of other characters in eight scenes.
Underground Railroad Game will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 9 through Saturday, October 12 in the Fisher Center’s LUMA Theater. Ticket prices start at $25; to reserve, or for additional information, call the box office at (845) 758-7900 or visit https://fishercenter.bard.edu. Parents please note that this is an R-rated work, containing sexually explicit material, strong language and mature themes, and is recommended for adventurous audiences aged 18 and up.
Underground Railroad Game
Wednesday-Saturday, Oct. 9-12, 7:30 p.m.
Luma Theater, Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson