c o m p o s e r s l y r i c i s t s p l a y w r i g h t s
One Unique Relationship, One Turbulent Era in History, One Book that Changed a Nation…
A musical based upon the unique relationship between two Connecticut neighbors and writers, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), River of Freedom is a powerful and touching story about the era of slavery and abolition.
This moving musical brings to life an era which led to the freedom of an enslaved people. It's the story of a woman who helped awaken a nation to the horrors and cruelty of slavery through her pivotal novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as seen through the eyes of a humorist and political satirist, not afraid of saying what he believes.
As a retired and aging writer, Stowe recounts to her neighbor and friend, Samuel Clemens, her personal history: born into the intellectual and strictly religious Beecher family, leaving a quiet New England life and being thrust headlong into the midst of the turmoil of a nation torn by hatred and prejudice.
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)
A fledgling writer in a period that was dominated by male authors, we learn of Stowe’s keen ability to weave a story despite great obstacles. Living in a border state, Harriet observes first-hand and is horrified by the cruelties of the South’s "peculiar institution."
Twain - who is a kind of timeless observer in this story - travels the road with Harriet and shares his unique point of view with the audience - and with the characters - many of whom died before he was born.
(above) The cast of Harriet at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati
The excitement and joy of falling in love, raising a family, and achieving literary notoriety are balanced with great hardship, the sadness of personal loss, public controversy over her novel, and a nation’s pain in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Through Harriet’s eyes, and the wit of Twain, we meet the characters of her famous book and wonder along with her “are they real?” Woven in and out of the musical are the personal experiences that motivated her to write her famous novel as well as events and individuals linked to those troubled times.
(below) Harriet Beecher Stowe / 1830
A unique look at history, Harriet & Sam was first produced in February of 2003 as part of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Festival at Cincinnati's historic Mercantile Library where Harriet herself had given lectures in the 1800's while living in that city.
It was performed again in May of 2003 at the Washington, KY, Historic Stowe Museum and Theatre and later at the home of Ed Rigaud, President of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, for the Cincinnati Arts community and city officials.
It was further produced on the Equity stage at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati.
With a full musical score of solos, duets, trios, and ensemble, we experience a full range of human emotions – despair, sorrow, joy, humor, and, most importantly, hope. Stowe’s passionate story, her heartaches, and her triumphs still continue to move people to embrace one another with compassion, empathy, and a spirit of reconciliation.
Ben Magnuson as Calvin Stowe in the Ensemble Theatre's Equity production. Ben appeared as Anthony in the Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd.