McCarter LAB

The Princeton and Slavery Plays

November 18-19, 2017

Venue Matthews Theatre
Date / Times November 19 - 1pm and 4:30pm

The Project: This fall, McCarter will present a reading of new 10-minute plays, commissioned in conjunction with a significant and timely community endeavor: the national public rollout of The Princeton and Slavery Project. Spearheaded by Martha Sandweiss (Princeton History professor and author of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line), this initiative examines how the history of Princeton University is entwined in the institution of slavery. Years of research, archives, and detailed findings will be made public in the fall of 2017, and McCarter is among a prestigious roster of non-profits that have been asked to play a lead role in this project, along with the Princeton Public Library, and the Princeton University Art Museum. Commissioned writers will craft individual 10-minute plays in response to the poignant research, testimonials and archives. They will have access to historical documents, letters, and artifacts and will meet with Princeton community members and leaders who have/had a personal connection to this history.

Commissioned Artists: Nathan Alan Davis, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Dipika Guha, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Emily Mann, Regina Taylor

Dramaturg: Emilia LaPenta

Public Presentations: There will be two public readings in conjunction with the public rollout of the research on November 19, 1pm and 4:30pm. Each performance is currently FULL. If you are still interested in attending, we encourage you to arrive early for standby as attrition is likely. Unused tickets will be released 15 minutes before the performance.

The commissioning and public readings of The Princeton and Slavery Plays are a part of The Princeton and Slavery Project.

Click here to learn more.




An enslaved family working at the President’s House at Princeton prepare themselves for separation through hard truths, stark realities, and tough love.

THE TORCH – Nathan Alan Davis
A Princeton undergrad takes steps to bring an icon down from his pedestal.

JIM LEANS – Jackie Sibblies Drury
The story of James Johnson, a former slave and worker at The College of New Jersey, “going through the motions” is never a simple thing.

ELIZABETH – Dipika Guha
In the early days of the American Colonization Society, a path paved with good intentions leads to ill-conceived and complex outcomes across the sea.

KING PETER – Kwame Kwei-Armah
Creating something new usually means the destruction of something else. US Navy lieutenant Robert Stockton comes to terms with a king in a meeting where nothing is quite what it seems.

JAMES JOHNSON – Regina Taylor
Escaped slave James Johnson is forced to trade one type of bondage for another when he arrives in Princeton.

TRAVEL – Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Two Princeton students discover more than they bargained for when a late night hangout takes a spooky turn.




Princeton Digs Deep Into Its Fraught Racial History - The New York Times

Putting the Ghosts of Princeton’s Racial Past Onstage - The New York Times

Princeton Wrestles with the Ghosts of Slavery - American Theatre




Princeton and Slavery Project & the Community: The Princeton and Slavery Plays—A Post-Show Community Conversation with Not in Our Town Princeton

Monday, November 20, 2017

Princeton Public Library
Community Room
7 – 8:30pm

Join members of the greater Princeton community and facilitators from Not in Our Town Princeton the day after the public performance of The Princeton and Slavery Plays for an inclusive and interactive conversation. This forum, similar in style and form to Not in Our Town’s monthly “Continuing Conversations,” is an opportunity to debrief on the personal audience experience of the plays, and to dig into the themes and issues underpinning the research and findings of The Princeton and Slavery Project, which continue to resonate in and affect the local community of the present.

This event will take place from 7 to 8:30pm in the Princeton Public Library’s Community Room (on the first floor adjacent to the Library Cafe). The Princeton Public Library is located at 65 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ.

No RSVP or ticket is required to participate in the conversation; it is free and open to the public.

This is a Not in Our Town Princeton, Princeton Public Library, and McCarter Theatre Center joint community partnership event.



A note to parents with children: The Princeton and Slavery Plays address challenging issues and themes related to the history of slavery in the United States and its troubling legacy and impact on the present day. Some of the plays include strong language.

This program is made possible in part by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, recommendations, or conclusions expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

McCarter’s Princeton and Slavery Commission Program is made possible by generous support from