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"Resurrection 150" One-Act At Missouri History Museum

The Black Rep’s Linda Kennedy has written “Resurrection 150.” (click for larger version)
November 16, 2011
History buffs will be predisposed to appreciate "Resurrection 150," a one-act play based on the true story of Rufus Vance, a freed slave who joined the Union Army and fought in the Battle of Island Mound near Kansas City.

Lovers of good theater, regardless of its theme, will have plenty to appreciate as well, including a commanding performance by a charismatic actor and a poignant sing-along of "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

"Resurrection 150," presented by the Missouri History Museum and the Black Rep, is one of a rotating series of plays being staged at the museum in conjunction with its exhibit "The Civil War in Missouri." These plays bring to life a variety of wartime experiences.

Written by Linda Kennedy, the Black Rep's associate artistic director, and directed by Elizabeth Pickard, the museum's theater program coordinator, "Resurrection 150" is aimed at younger audiences but has plenty to offer adults as well.

As Vann, Maurice Demus has no set, no other actors with whom to interact and only a few simple props to illustrate Vann's journey from slave to soldier. Such close proximity to the audience risks degrading the dramatic experience, but Demus' stage presence and obvious passion prevents "Resurrection 150" from becoming a glorified lecture.

Joyful Sounds
Even the best-written one-person show rises or falls based upon a single actor's ability. And despite its short length, "Resurrection 150" requires a great deal of Demus. Its script weaves together monologue, poetry and song, all of which he delivers with the polish of a practiced pro.

Kennedy penned new lyrics to "Battle Hymn," recounting the experience of African-American soldiers. But at the play's conclusion, Demus asks the audience to join him in singing the words so deeply ingrained in American culture.

On opening day, in attendance was a group of Boy Scouts who sang "glory, glory hallelujah!" with all the gusto they could muster. If anyone was still unmoved by Demus' performance, this unexpected backup chorus was certain to have emotional impact.

"Resurrection 150" is presented in Missouri History Museum's McDermott Grand Hall Saturdays at 2 p.m. through Dec. 17.

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