"Phenomenally thoughtful and creative approach to historical theater."
"Could be the source of constructive and meaningful conversations about race, reconciliation, and mutual respect."
"Americans today need more historical stories like this. We can learn so much from the unlikely friendship between Lincoln and Douglass and the example their friendship sets for us today."
Quotes from attendees share the same enthusiasm I have for The Patterson Foundation's presentation of the staged reading, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect — written by award-winning playwright Beth Duda, with original spoken word poetry by Cedric Hameed.
Abraham Lincoln was portrayed by Jeffrey Atherton and Frederick Douglass by Joel PE King. Read their bios here.
Even after a public high school and college education, including undergraduate history courses, I never learned the story of Lincoln and Douglass' mutual respect and friendship. A Walk to Respect was the first I've heard of this, and it seems to me that many share my same sentiments. This educational piece of history provides powerful insight and fosters memorable conversations. It is an honor and joy to be a part of the team who worked diligently to make this a reality and looks to identify opportunities for future participation.
Two shows were held at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, welcoming hundreds of attendees locally as well as a tour group from Sarasota, FL. Immediately following each show was a talk-back panel discussion with the audience where gratitude was shared for this moving performance. The cast and crew traveled out into the community on Thursday, February 23, to perform and host workshops at local high schools focusing on respect and starting the conversation.
Since beginning at The Patterson Foundation, I have seen the emphasis on wide participation first-hand. This is done through growing trust and building connective tissue, removing barriers such as cost, and getting proximate with our communities.
Through this perspective, I see bright spots everywhere where there is engagement, enthusiasm, and curiosity. During the 11:00am show panel talk-back discussion, a young boy raised his hand and asked a question about the American flag on set. The boy asked why a "K" was included where a star should be. Beth Duda explained the reason as the "K" represents the Bleeding Kansas time period, and we all shared praise for such a thoughtful question. Each show received standing applause and requests to stay in touch with future performances and materials to share.
There were more bright spots on Thursday as the cast and crew began conversations at local high schools. When students at the first school were asked if anyone had a poem they would like to share, a student excitedly came on stage -- sharing a piece of themself with us and over 100 of their classmates. During the afternoon spoken word workshop, a student bravely shared their story of mental health struggle and progress. This vulnerable moment was met with care and compassion from classmates -- something I personally never witnessed in high school. The humanity was breathtaking. Attendees shined brightly with open minds and caring hearts, exemplifying the meaning of A Walk to Respect.