- Different Stages "Sally and Tom (The American Way)" opens at the Castillo Theatre Feb17 (By Charles E. Rogers, Amsterdam News) With beautiful music by Grammy-nominated songwriter Annie Roboff, this dramatic musical follows Hemings and Jefferson's love affair over a quarter century as it becomes a scandal in the press, produces five children and forces Hemings to confront the relative privileges of her life and the injustices of slavery.
- Musical about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings Comes to Castillo Theatre, 2/17-3/25 (Broadway World) Fred Newman, who passed away in July, wrote the book and lyrics of Sally and Tom, which was originally produced at the Castillo Theatre in 1995. Newman served as Castillo’s artistic director and playwright-in-residence for 16 years and wrote 44 politically engaged, experimental plays and musicals. He shaped the Castillo Theatre from its founding in 1984 into a unique kind of political theatre—progressive without being partisan, artistically and philosophically demanding while being inclusive of diverse audiences.
Musical Drama Explores Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings'
American Story of Love, Slavery and Compromise
Jacqueline Salit, the president of IndependentVoting.org, long a player in New York City and national politics, is currently playing on a different stage - at the Castillo Theatre on 42nd Street, where she's appearing as Founding Father James Madison in a revival of Fred Newman and Annie Roboff's political musical, Sally and Tom (The American Way).
Running at the Castillo Theatre for six weeks from February 17 through March 25, Sally and Tom (The American Way) examines the 30-year relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, a relationship that produced five children and embodies the wrenching conflict between democracy and slavery,and its legacy of racism that continues to shape America to this day.
In this polarizing presidential election year, with the meaning of "the American way" itself being hotly contested, Salit makes her acting debut in a play that examines the extreme power struggles and ugly campaigning that shaped our nation's course in the early years of the Republic. In an ironic twist, Salit - a political independent who is outspoken against party control of American politics - plays the author of the Constitution, a man who deeply opposed political parties but ultimately founded one.
Salit has a 30-year history in independent and insurgent politics. She managed Mayor Michael Bloomberg's three successful campaigns on the Independence Party line and was a key strategist in the effort to bring non-partisan election reform to New York City. Her book, Independents Rising, published by Palgrave Macmillan, will be in stores in August. "This is a totally new experience," Salit says of her role as a Founding Father. "I've performed as 'myself' at political gatherings and on TV. But it's very different to be playing someone else - a man, at that - who lived over 200 years ago. In this production, Madison is both a man of his time and can look back at his - and the country's - inhuman compromises. Performing the part hits me very hard every time we do the show." Salit shares the role with veteran actor and director David Nackman. The dates of the performances in which Salit will appear can be supplied.
Under the direction of Gabrielle L. Kurlander, the play is performed on three stages in its own surreal "history museum." The audience is seated throughout the performance space and among the exhibits, and is encouraged to interact with the conflicted history of our nation.
In addition to Salit and Nackman, the cast for Sally and Tom (The American Way) features Ava Jenkins and Adam Kemmerer in the title roles, as well as Sean Patrick Gibbons and Brian D. Hills. Musical direction is by David Belmont with Michael Walsh, choreography by Lonné Moretton; sets by Joseph Spirito and costumes by Emilie Charlotte Knoerzer.
The Castillo Theatre (Dan Friedman, artistic director, Diane Stiles, managing director) is located at 543 West 42nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. February 17 through March 25. Tickets are $35 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. Group rates are available. Tickets can be purchased through the Castillo Box Office at 212-941-1234 or at www.castillo.org.
SALLY AND TOM (THE AMERICAN WAY)
Book & Lyrics by Fred Newman
Music by Annie Roboff
Directed by Gabrielle L. Kurlander
543 West 42nd Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues)