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UVI Theatre to Return with Staging of 'Truth on Trial' at St. Thomas' Pistarckle Theater

Truth On Trial Cast There is great excitement on UVI's St. Thomas campus as nearly fifty Virgin Islanders have been hard at work for the past two months preparing for the return of the UVI Theatre. Truth on Trial: The Ballad of Sojourner Truth, a powerful and provocative play based on the incredible life of Sojourner Truth, will be performed April 17, 18, 19, and April 24, 25 and 26, on the Pistarckle Theater stage.

Curtain time for the Friday and Saturday shows is 8 p.m. Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. The staging is taking place at the Pistarckle Theatre because UVI Little Theatre is not available, according to Dr. Douglas Larche, playwright and director of Truth on Trial. "We are excited to follow such a great show as Jesus Christ Superstar," said Dr. Larche. "We actually designed the spaces together, and our show will have much of the same interactive, intimate, powerful and present feel of Superstar."

Truth on Trial
tells the story of Sojourner Truth, an illiterate former slave who fought for the causes of abolition, women's rights, temperance and evangelical Christianity all her life. Dr. Larche spent over twenty years researching the life of Truth before writing Truth on Trial. Much of the play, he said, is taken from 19th century journals, letters, newspaper reports and the recollections of Truth herself. The play surges to life with the powerful oratory, song, poetry and delightful Mark-Twain-like humor of Sojourner Truth.

Not intended for children, the production features much joy, but also hard, historically-accurate language, conflict over issues of race, gender and affirmative action, harangues and debates, whippings, courtroom drama, appearances by Frederick Douglas and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Civil War scenes, women's rights meetings, slave songs and dances, and a lusty Pinxter celebration.

Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults, and are available at UVI Bookstore, Dockside Book Shop, Mickey Mania, Modern Music, Reichhold Center and for walk-in patrons at Pistarckle Theater.

Truth on Trial won the 21st Century Playwrights Festival in New York City. Dr. Larche, who is UVI's Playwright-in-Residence, a professor of communication and a Senior American Fulbright Scholar, called having his work judged by incredible people like Ntozake Shange and David Henry Hwang "a thrilling experience."

With a cast nearly 50-strong, Dr. Larche said the play's company includes an "exciting and eclectic mix of people who bring amazing life stories to our show." The cast includes many UVI students, UVI professors and staff members, Pistarckle Theater veterans and community members.

Playing the lead role of Sojourner Truth is former UVI student, lawyer and entrepreneur Sheena Conway. The five professors who debate her fate are played by UVI students Bayley Garbutt and Renee Johnson, UVI teacher Pamela New, Pistarckle Theater veteran Jim Jester, and Ryan Bacidore of Philadelphia. In all, the play has more than140 roles.

"Over thirty of our cast members call St. Thomas, St. John or BVI home, but our company members come from all over the world - from England to the Philippines, from New York to California and across the whole Caribbean," he said. "Their lives read like a World Atlas. Their acting skills and personalities have been shaped by travels to 16 Caribbean nations, 13 African countries, 12 European countries. Five are from Asia and the Pacific Islands, three from Central America, three from South America and three from the former Soviet Union. These folks are sophisticated citizens of the world."

The show's production team includes UVI students Jae Knight as technical director and April Rose Fale and Tiffany Bernier as assistant directors. They are joined by a host of UVI students and volunteers and by Joe Peterson and Marc Fellner-Erez as Pistarckle liaisons.

UVI invites people from all across the U.S. and British Virgin Islands to help welcome back UVI Theatre after a hiatus. Dr. Larche said the first step in rebuilding the remarkable tradition that the islands once shared is attending this UVI Theatre production, Truth on Trial, at the Pistarckle Theater.

"As we try to build a bridge to today's new UVI Theatre, we honor those who came before," Dr. Larche said. "We hope to stand on their shoulders. Dr. Rosarie Harper, of the famed Harper-Parker productions that spanned almost three decades, graciously volunteered to act as Costumer for the show, and we've received hands-on help and messages of support from Dennis Parker, David Edgecombe, Doug Salisbury and many former members of the UVI Theatre company."