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Set in Kentucky in 1843, Safe House examines the lives of one free family of color and the tensions that arise between two brothers with conflicting aspirations. While one brother dreams of opening his own business, the other risks everything in an effort to help fugitive slaves escape on the Underground Railroad. Based on true events in the lives of his ancestors, Adkins tells a gripping story of love, freedom and survival against impossible odds.

“Adkins is as hard-hitting as he is poetic as he rejects the simplistic notion of a world painted in black and white, either racially or morally.” - Cincinnati.com


Runtime: Approximately 2:10 including one 10 minute intermission.

Member of *Actors' Equity Association, +Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, **United Scenic Artists
Press Coverage
So how does Callender choose his projects when he has so much going on? He takes on ones that challenge — or actually, terrify — him. Read Full Article »
- Emily Wilson
San Francisco Chronicle
Compelling performances Read Full Article »
- Lily Janiak
SF Chronicle
At a time when many Bay Area viewers may already be on edge with worry about the future of basic human rights in this country...[Safe House] strikes an awfully unnerving chord. Read Full Article »
- Sam Hurwitt
BANG / San Jose Mercury News
A drama of race, family ties and dreams deferred Read Full Article »
- Georgia Rowe
SF Examiner
Safe House really catches dramatic fire. Read Full Article »
- Chad Jones
Theater Dogs
A courageous and meaningful drama Read Full Article »
- Emily Mendel
Berkeleyside
History lessons seldom deliver their insights with such vividness and force. Read Full Article »
- Leo Stutzin
Huffington Post
Positively electric...It's good drama Read Full Article »
- Adam Brinklow
EDGE
The acting is masterful. The set feels like you’re there… the characters’ dialogue grabs you. Read Full Article »
- Richard Wolinsky
KPFA 94.1FM
Safe House will challenge, delight, and anger you—especially in this time when so many of us feel we have taken a giant step toward the world of bigotry and xenophobia in which these characters live. Read Full Article »
- Patrick Thomas
Talkin’ Broadway
As skillfully directed by L. Peter Callender, the drama unfolds grippingly. Read Full Article »
- Judy Richter
For All Events
emotional gems and delightful visuals Read Full Article »
- Shannon O’Hara
The Daily Californian
the entire ensemble, directed with a sure hand by L. Peter Callender, is excellent Read Full Article »
- Charles Brousse
Pacific Sun
Adkins’ play and the powerful cast are asking us: ... Have we changed our ways? Read Full Article »
- Benjamin K. Sloan
Theatrius
artists

CASSIDY BROWN* - Bracken
JAMELLA CROSS - Roxie
LANCE GARDNER* - Frank
DAVID EVERETT MOORE* - Addison
DEZI SOLÉY - Clarissa
DAWN L. TROUPE* - Dorcas


KEITH JOSEF ADKINS - Playwright
L. PETER CALLENDER - Director


KATE BOYD - Set Designer
CALLIE FLOOR+ - Costume Designer
CHRIS HOUSTON - Sound Designer & Composer
JON TRACY - Light Designer
SAMANTHA VISBAL - Props
CHRIS WATERS - Stage Manager




CASSIDY BROWN* Cassidy is pleased to return to Aurora Theatre, where he has previously appeared as Scooper in Bosoms and Neglect. He most recently appeared as Iago in Othello at Marin Shakespeare Company, in The Totalitarians at Capital Stage, and ART at Center Rep, Other credits include Theatreworks in Doubt, Distracted, The Loudest Man on Earth, Fallen Angels, and The 39 Steps, Pacific Repertory in The 39 Steps, A Winter's Tale, Troilus and Cressida, and God of Carnage, San Jose Rep in Game On, San Jose Stage in The 39 Steps, and SF Playhouse in In a Word. Cassidy is also an event host and storyteller running a monthly storytelling show called The Shout.
DAVID EVERETT MOORE* David is thrilled to be making his Aurora Theatre debut. He was most recently seen as Polixenes in The Winter's Tale for San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. Recent credits include Eli in Gem of the Ocean (Marin Theatre Company) and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (SF Shakes). Other local and regional credits include We Are Proud to Present… (Just Theater), Topdog/Underdog (Actors’ Theatre), Good Goods (Crowded Fire Theater), and Taming of the Shrew, Our Town, and  Much Ado About Nothing at Colorado Shakespeare Festival. David is a proud graduate of UC Berkeley's Theater and Performance Studies program.
DAWN L. TROUPE* Dawn is a professional actor, director, and theatre arts educator. Dawn's most recent acting credits; she’s appeared as Mary Black in Marcus Gardley’s Gospel of Lovingkindness at Ubuntu Theater, as Shug Avery in Color Purple at Hillbarn Theater which won the TBA Outstanding Ensemble award and others. Dawn has also appeared as Blues Speak Woman in Spunk directed by Patricia MacGregor at CalShakes. She most recently directed Ragtime at Ohlone/Stage 1, To Kill A Mockingbird, Cinderella at Hillbarn and Dreamgirls at Stage 1. Dawn’s regional credits include many Bay Area companies such as Berkeley Reps (The Ground Floor), TheaterWorks, Marin Theater Company, and many more.
DEZI SOLèY Dezi is a prizmatic artist co-creating embodiments of the Divine through explorations in images, spoken word & movement. Since earning her BA in Cultural Studies, Minor in Dance from Prescott College ('13), Solèy has trained and performed with Bay Area traditional Haitian & South African dance theatre companies as well as starred in numerous projects like Brother (directed by Alrik Bursell). Her most recent work includes starring in Baby Steps (directed by Jennifer Vo Le), an original solo performance for Conjuring Roots (National Queer Arts Festival) and the premiere of FMMTPN (from her co-curated collective, Femmetopian @fmmtpn) at SOMArts’ The Black Woman is God/Night Light exhibition. Solèy is currently represented by Stars The Agency. www.dezisoley.com
JAMELLA CROSS Jamella is an artist that loves working in the theatrical community. Creating with others is something she is very passionate about and she believes unity and togetherness is what makes a piece of art grow stronger. She has worked with theatre companies such as the Magic Theatre (Sojourners), Bay Area Children's Theatre (Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, The Day the Crayons Quit, and Bad Kitty), TheatreFirst (Stop Kiss), Berkeley Playhouse (Hairspray), Free Theatre (Henry IV), Virago Theatre Company (Crooked), Ubuntu Theatre Project (Dance of the Holy Ghost), and 3Girls Company (Girl Talk) which are all located throughout the Bay Area. This is her first debut at the Aurora Theatre and she is beyond excited to be a part of this phenomenal production of Safe House and hopes you will enjoy it!
LANCE GARDNER* Lance is a Bay Area Native who has performed in numerous stage productions over the last 10 years. Safe House is his first show at Aurora. He recently completed a stint at CalShakes where he was seen in Much Ado About Nothing (as Don Pedro/Ursula), Fences (as Lyons), You Never Can Tell (as Philip), and Othello (as Cassio). He lives in the mountains and sings in the shower.
Member of *Actors' Equity Association, +Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, **United Scenic Artists

Free People of Color

Family and History Inspire Playwright Keith Josef Adkins 

by Josh Costello, Literary Manager & Artistic Associate 
Playwright Keith Josef Adkins

A young Keith Josef Adkins learned from his grandmother that their ancestors in antebellum Kentucky weren't slaves. "I thought she didn't know what she was talking about," he told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2014. But as a teenager he began researching his family history, and he discovered that his grandmother was correct. He eventually traced his ancestry back to a white indentured servant named Elizabeth Banks, who was charged and publicly whipped six times in the 1600s for giving birth to "a negro child."  "I realized she was married to a black man," Adkins says, "and these were her children." Because their mother was white, those children -- and their children -- were born free.

Before the Civil War, 9 out of every 10 black people in the United States were enslaved. Slavery was almost entirely restricted to the South by the middle of the nineteenth century, so most black Americans living in the North were free. Perhaps surprisingly, however, there were more free African-Americans living in the South than in the North -- according to the 1860 Census, there were 261,918 free blacks living in the South and 226,152 living in the North. Some, like Keith's ancestors, were the children of white mothers and black fathers. Others were slaves that had been manumitted (set free), and their children. 


Free People of Color in the antebellum South lived under much harsher discriminatory policies than their counterparts in the North. Despite their severely limited abilities to travel or assemble, Keith's ancestors ran businesses, founded churches, and helped escaped slaves reach freedom on the Underground Railroad. He took particular inspiration from a branch of his family that worked as shoemakers.

"...there was guy in particular, Leander Ayers, he was free born. I guess he had come from Maryland, probably right before the War of 1812. All of his sons also learned the trade. They were making shoes for the white community. When you're a free Person of Color, obviously you're not serving the black community because most of the black community is enslaved, so you have to survive by finding a trade that is something that people have to have. So it's either cutting hair or making shoes."
- Keith Josef Adkins, interviewed for African American Playwrights' Exchange, 2009

From there, Keith crafted a story of two brothers who approach their situation in very different ways. One is determined to get ahead within the white world, and believes strongly in the virtue of hard work. The other chafes under society's rules and his brother's expectations. By exploring this family and their community with such insight and imagination, Keith lays bare universal themes of sacrifice and betrayal, and brings a little-known period of history to life.

Pictured Above: Playwright Keith Josef Adkins


 

The Underground Railroad

Brooklyn Museum - A Ride for Liberty -- The Fugitive Slaves - Eastman Johnson - overallAbout 100,000 escaped slaves from the southern United States reached freedom via a network of routes and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. Free black Americans like Keith's ancestors were instrumental in providing safe houses and guidance to escaped slaves; white abolitionists and Native Americans provided assistance as well. Safe houses and hiding places where escapees could rest and eat were known as stations on the railroad, and guides were called conductors. The railroad's cargo or passengers were escaped slaves, making their way station by station to freedom in the North. 

 

Pictured Above: Eastman Johnson (American, 1824-1906). A Ride for Liberty -- The Fugitive Slaves (recto), ca. 1862.


 

Liberia
 Partial advertisement posted by slave trader William F. Talbott of Lexington, Kentucky, in 1853.
In SAFE HOUSE, the Pedigrew family has been on probation for helping slaves escape-- not just to the North, but all the way to the Republic of Liberia on the west coast of Africa. The Colonization Society supported the transportation of Free People of Color from the United States to Liberia, and was itself supported by slaveholders looking to remove free blacks from their states and by abolitionists who believed Liberia offered greater opportunities. More than 15,000 black Americans settled in Liberia between 1822 and the onset of the Civil War, declaring independence in 1847 as the first African republic and winning recognition from the United States in 1862. Indigenous Africans were largely excluded from the fledgling Liberian government; Liberia's first president was a free-born black American from Virginia. More recently, a series of coups in the 1980s led to a bloody civil war in the 1990s. Liberia was hit with an outbreak of Ebola in 2014 and 2015.

Pictured Above: Partial advertisement posted by slave trader William F. Talbott of Lexington, Kentucky, in 1853.


 
 
production photos
Photos by David Allen
*Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers
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