Liberty To Go To See

Liberty To Go To See

Art — Produced by Michael O’Reilly

Liberty To Go To See would most accurately be described as a “play within a house museum” and comes about through the unusually co-operative efforts of several artistic and historic agencies. In the past 50 years, the mountains of records stored in the basement of Cliveden, ancestral home to the Chew family of Philadelphia, have been cleaned, cataloged and pored over by researchers. These papers have revealed some remarkably intimate portraits of the people who lived there – not only the members of the Chew family but also the free, indentured and enslaved peoples who were the backbone of Cliveden itself. Realizing the power of this material, David Young, the Executive Director of Cliveden, reached out to the Philadelphia Young Playwrights (PYP) and, along with the young high school students organized by PYP, began interpreting and writing original scenes from this archival material. They soon had an “entire flock” of performance-ready scenes, for which New Freedom Theater (NFT) was brought in to shepherd. NFT was able to direct, refine and connect, along with the original student playwrights, so that this flock of scenes felt more like an actual play. FRIDAY ARTS visits with the principal participants in this project through interviews and rehearsals, to present an inside look at a performance that will run on June 19th or the sesquicentennial of “Juneteenth”, the word used to describe the date that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in June of 1865, 150 years ago.


Cliveden – produced by Michael O’Reilly

The estate of Philadelphia’s prominent Chew Family, Cliveden was also the site of the bloody Battle of Germantown in the Revolutionary War. Visitors can see graffiti etched in the mansion’s windows over the decades, as well what may be a portrait of a soldier’s sweetheart drawn in his own blood. At the time this segment was produced, the letters left in the basement were just beginning to be explored. Much of the history of slavery associated with Cliveden was not known. This piece was nominated for a Mid-Atlantic Emmy in 2010.


Chew Family Papers – produced by Michael O’Reilly

The Chew family is one of the oldest in Philadelphia, dating back to William Penn’s time. An examination of the Chews’ historic papers reveals details of the daily lives of a slaveholding family. One story details a slave’s rebellious behavior.

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