This semester, I worked on the university’s production of Pure Confidence, a play by Carlyle Brown which tells the story of Simon Cato, a slave who works as a jockey and means to ride his way to freedom. Throughout the play, we see Simon’s conviction to earn money so he can buy his freedom. At one point, after the Civil War, Simon says, “I hear many a white man talking ’bout the price of freedom and never work a day in their life. I know what my price of freedom was. It was five thousand dollars, that’s what it was. And I couldn’t even get that. What’s your price for freedom Mister Reporter man? How much are you worth?” Simon says this in response to the reporter saying “the war was the price we all paid for Simon’s freedom.” This line always made me stop and think, no matter how many times I watched the play, because really, do any of us with the privilege that we have ever think about our lives with price tags on them?
In addition to the play, there was a pre- and post-show exhibit done by the dramaturgical team which was used to honor the 400th anniversary of African slaves first arriving on Virginian shores. Prior to each performance, a libation was made to the African ancestors, asking them to guide us in our mission of equality and social justice. The audience was also asked to participate by voicing agreement to each adage and most people seemed pleased by the ability to participate and feel connected to the meaning of the play and its message. It was a really fabulous production that I’m very proud to have worked on, and I think it did a very good job of honoring the 400 years of slavery — both slaves and their descendants — that it set out to acknowledge.