It seems far fetched that a person in any era can arrive on the steps of the White House without an appointment to air their thoughts face to face with the president and be ushered in for a private meeting. Yet, that did happen when Frederick Douglass arrived in DC one hot August day and was ushered in to speak with President Lincoln. In NECESSARY SACRIFICES, currently streaming by North Coast Repertory Theatre through October 11th we are privy to the (imagined) discussions between these two great men during those historic meetings.
Douglass (Hawthorne James) opens the show just before arriving at the White House and his meeting with Lincoln (Ray Chambers). Douglass has arrived (without an invitation) to discuss his concerns and disappointment in Lincoln’s actions since the Emancipation Proclamation. Inspired by that Douglass actively recruited colored troops into the Union Army, but has grown disillusioned by what he feels are broken promises and the “vacillating policies” of Lincoln.
The play is based on the two documented meetings between Lincoln and Douglass, as these two men discuss politics, war, and race and how the pressures and expectations of an election year can influence all of that.
This intimate play is well suited for being filmed on stage as the Douglass and Lincoln move from pleasant discussion to outright debate on issues. James has the charisma and the gravitas for the formidable and impassioned Douglass, while Chambers’ Lincoln is a pragmatic man aware of his responsibilities and yet able to retain his sense of humor about the absurdities of the game of politics in Washington.
The topics of racisim, equality, and politics, and effective leadership are still painfully and poignantly relevant in this election year. What does leadership look like? How can progress be made through the complicated political process of favours, concessions, and polling numbers? Can politics help unite a divided country? All still excellent questions to ponder.
Portions of the dialouge, some of which was taken from both mens writings, can seem overly dense and pedantic and it is a credit to both James and Chambers that they can make these portions work as well and as naturally as they do. Both gentlemen shine in the ungaurded moments when Douglass and Lincoln step away from politics and get personal; discussing family, the pain of loss, and their personal sacrifices for their work.
Directed by Peter Ellenstien, on a set designed by Marty Burnett, with cinematography and editing by Aaron Rumley this play is timely and compelling. This production was filmed on North Coast Rep’s mainstage, adhering to all mandated safety and testing procedures under the SAG New Media Agreement.
NECESSARY SACRIFICES by North Coast Repertory Theatre is streaming through October 11th. Tickets to access the performance can be purchased at www.northcoastrep.org The run time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Once you purchase your ticket to the performance you will be sent a link to watch. Once you have clicked the link you will have 48 hours of access to view it.
Written By Richard Hellesen
Directed By Peter Ellenstein
Frederick Douglass – Hawthorne James
Abraham Lincoln – Ray Cambers
Scenic Designer MartyBurnett
Costumes by Elisa Benzoni
Hair/Wigs by Peter Herman
Music by Michael Silversher
Cinematographer/editor Aaron Rumley
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