“Freedom Train,” the story of Maryland heroine Harriet Tubman and her work to lead slaves to freedom, returns for two performances at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick on Friday, Jan. 11.
The shows are part of Weinberg’s SmARTS series for students in the Frederick County school system, but tickets also will be available for the general public if the one-hour program does not sell out.
Students from as many as 20 public schools are bussed to the performances, says John Healey, executive stage manager for the Weinberg.
The performances are intended to complement the school system’s curriculum.
“That’s the whole point of the SmARTS program,” Healey says.
“Freedom Train” is a production of Theatreworks USA based in New York City. “It’s about Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad and how she escaped,” says director Joy Kelly, a guest artist with Theatre Works.
Two of the cast members are from Maryland — Jasmine Thomas is from Baltimore and Rasha Jay is from Annapolis.
Tubman escaped from Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore and later helped others, including members of her family, escape with the help of a network of fellow abolitionists stretching from the American South to Canada.
The show features songs and spirituals performed live to recorded music, including “Wading in the Water,” which was sung to warn slaves to get off a trail and into water to confuse dogs tracking their scents.
The song “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” is about the North Star in the Big Dipper, which was a beacon in the night sky for slaves heading north to freedom.
Healey says the Weinberg Center is able to offer the SmARTS productions at a reduced price for students, thanks to grants and contributions to the program, which is now in its 15th year.
“It’s a great coordination project between the schools, Weinberg and the buses,” he says.
The Weinberg, which has presented “Freedom Train” before, will offer some new shows this spring, says Healey.
Coming March 1 is “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” followed by the Maryland Shakespeare Company of Frederick on March 20 and “Velveteen Rabbit” on April 5.
In November, the Weinberg Center hosted ”ImaginOcean,” a black-light puppet show featuring fish in Day-Glo fluorescent colors that “took you underneath the sea,” he says.
That and other Weinberg shows like the popular “Super Scientific Circus” complement the school system’s science classes.
“A lot of people may not be aware that we do this,” Healey says.