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By Scott Roberto / October 30, 12:00 AM
History in the Re-Making
Photo: Alex Joachim/courtesy of Revolutionary Spaces


An influential yet perhaps under-appreciated figure in the history of Colonial Boston gets the spotlight at the iconic Old South Meeting House from November 1–December 3. The new play Phillis in Boston recounts the story of poet and one-time slave Phillis Wheatley in the very place she once frequented as a member of its congregation. A child prodigy, Wheatley was the first known African American poet to be published in English, an occurrence that took place in the pivotal year 1773, the same year as the revolution-sparking Boston Tea Party. As part of that event’s 250th anniversary, the aforementioned production was commissioned by historical organization Revolutionary Spaces and was written by British-Nigerian playwright and screenwriter Ade Solanke and directed by the Emmy-nominated Regge Life. Set at a key moment in Wheatley’s life, the premiere work presents her as she returns to Boston from a whirlwind literary tour of London, newly emancipated and trying to reconnect to the African American community of the city and plan for its future in the advent of coming change. There’s even a direct connection to the Tea Party, as Wheatley’s books arrived in London aboard one of the ships involved in the infamous protest, which had its origins at—you guessed it—the very same Old South Meeting House where this bold new portrayal is being acted out.

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