Common Ground, the new musical by Granville Wyche Burgess and Stan Wietrzychowsk, tells the yet-untold story of what really necessitated the Emancipation Proclamation. This special book-in-hand presentation, will be Monday, December 9 at 7:00 p.m. at The Actors Temple, 339 West 47th Street, NYC. Common Ground begins with a veiledly racist President Lincoln, carrying a country-at-war on his back, deliberating on how to make peace with his foes and forge an alliance with the formidable Frederick Douglass. Douglass, a literate, courageous “Moses” to his people, must show President Lincoln a new realty.
This is a “manly” story with two masculine forces etching our history. But – as the musical displays – the wives of these two statesmen played an integral role. Aviana Rivera creates the role of Ann, Frederick Douglass’ wife. Creates is the right word. As little is known of her. Aviana’s creative ground is fertile for interpretation.
We wanted to speak with her about her role and her role in the arts.
Tell us about yourself as an artist
I have just recently decided to ascend into the professional world of theatre and it was the best decision I ever made. I grew up in a household that moved around all of the time, so in my travels I’ve had the opportunity to meet, understand, and observe people in their different ways of life. So as an artist, I find that it is my duty to constantly try and understand people to their fullest capacity and use that knowledge to help me best portray characters truthfully.
Do you feel an added sense of responsibility when handling apiece of history like this?
I definitely feel an added sense of responsibility when handling a piece like this. Not only because it’s based on such an important part of American history, but also because of the weight it still holds in our modern American society. The problems that are evident in this piece still affect our society today and it’s interesting to explore and play upon those parallels in order to create a sense of catharsis that anyone can relate to, or in the very least empathize with.
Tell us about a staged reading … pros cons
I would say the pros of doing a staged reading versus a full production would be it’s easier for the audience to focus on the words and emotions the actors are trying to portray. Once you get into a full production, the glitz and glam of the lights, costumes, and special effects has the potential to overshadow the playwrights work. On the other hand, I would also say that the con of doing a stage reading would have to be for the very same reason. That same glitz and glam, if done correctly, could emphasize the playwrights work in the best way possible and really bring the piece the life it might need.
The company for this presentation features Kalonjee Gallimore as Frederick Douglass; Dan Pavacic as Abraham Lincoln, with Aviana Rivera, Miranda Luze, Maurio Brown, Brenden MacDonald, Hannah Bonnett and Steven M. Singer as John Wilkes Booth. Reservations are required for this event. Contact Liz Cope at JMAE.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 347-497-4814