‘Freedom Rising’ at Constitution Center celebrates its 50,000th show

The longest-running theatre production in Philadelphia doesn’t take place at the Walnut Street Theatre, or the Society Hill Playhouse. It’s actually at the National Constitution Center. 

“Freedom Rising,” a 17-minute long, one-actor show that takes place at the National Constitution Center 14 times a day will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary on Wednesday. 

The dramatic presentation of the story of the U.S. Constitution begins by an actor asking the audience a very simple, yet profound question: “Who are we … what makes us a people?”

Vision and performance

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Nora Quinn, the NCC’s director of theatre programs, says the professional actor who guides the performance is serving as the storyteller.

“And that actor, he or she tells the story of the history of this country, the core principals of the constitution and the key questions that were asking here at the center about who are we as a people, what makes us a people, is it this document?” said Quinn. “How has it shaped our nation and how have people in play with the constitution shaped our nation and what will we do with that?”

The performer moves throughout the space, creating a vibrant multimedia experience for the audience as they’re transported back to before the American Revolution, to the crafting of the constitution and to the present day.

“This is a story that didn’t have to happen this way,” said Quinn. “Coming to the museum and seeing ‘Freedom Rising’ is a doorway into some of the most fascinating parts of our history and how we sit in that bigger picture.”

Origin story

The production was a collaboration of artists, historians, scholars and writers in 2001.

They were charged with creating a piece “that would inspire people to look throughout the rest of the exhibit and discover how they fit in this larger picture of our country, how to become active citizens and what are the core constitutional ideas that have existed since 1787 that guide us through these tough decisions that, even today, we’re still trying to make.”

The show is performed by a diverse cross section of actors. Since its 2003 debut, there have been more than 50,000 performances.

The show has evolved slightly to reflect the changing times, which will likely continue, making a point to show how our nation has evolved.

“So, in some ways, it’s no different than it’s been over the past 10 years,” Quinn said. “And, in some ways, it’s very different because it’s about something that’s always going on in our country.”


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