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Sep 02nd

Almost To Freedom: SteppingStone Theatre premieres vivid tale about the Underground Railroad

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SteppingStone Theatre celebrates Black History Month with Almost to Freedom, the story of the Underground Railroad told vividly through the eyes of a beloved rag doll. Commissioned by the company and adapted by Kim Hines from the popular book by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, the show has its world premiere Friday, February 8 through March 2, in SteppingStone's new theatre in St. Paul's Historic Hill District. Brian Grandison directs the show. SteppingStone Theatre celebrates Black History Month with Almost to Freedom, the story of the Underground Railroad told vividly through the eyes of a beloved rag doll. Commissioned by the company and adapted by Kim Hines from the popular book by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, the show has its world premiere Friday, February 8 through March 2, in SteppingStone's new theatre in St. Paul's Historic Hill District. Brian Grandison directs the show.

Almost to Freedom follows an African American girl who is given a rag doll. Through the beloved doll's eyes, viewers see the extremes of slave life—the cruelty, the love, and the daring escape from slavery via the Underground Railroad. The book upon which the play is based received the Coretta Scott King Award Honor in 2004.

"I was so moved when I read this book, and I had an immediate desire to put it on stage," says Artistic Director Richard Hitchler. "I'm excited to have this story as the first original work in our new theatre, as it begs for a level of theatricality that we could not have achieved before."

Hines also wrote Home on the Morning Train for SteppingStone Theatre (1994), a play that has gone on to numerous productions across the country and is now published by Dramatic Publishing and in the University of Texas' anthology of Best Children's Plays.

Author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson will travel to the Twin Cities for the Friday, February 22, 7 p.m. performance and will sign books immediately following the show.

Briana Blakey (6th grade, Capitol Hill Magnet) plays the role of the young girl, Lindy. She is joined on stage by Alyssa DiVirgilio (10th grade, St. Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts) as Sally, the rag doll. Other cast members include Caroline Casey, Gavin Corhouse, Raquelle Edunjobi, Kaujah Iverson, Morgan Jellison, Zach Johnson, Chelanga Langason, Marques Matthias, Jasmine Mattison, Pelita Murumba, Cody Nelson, Browyn Sherman, Lillian Thomas, Scarlett Thompson, Angela Wigfield, and D'Angelo York.

Performances of Almost to Freedom begin Friday, February 8, at 7 p.m.; subsequent performances are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m; Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. and noon; and Fridays at 7 p.m. An Audio Described show is scheduled for Friday, February 15, at 7 p.m., and an ASL performance is scheduled for Sunday, February 17, at 2 p.m. Tickets ($11 for adults and $9 for seniors and children 2–17) are available at (651) 225-9265 or www.steppingstonetheatre.org.

All performances are in SteppingStone Theatre's new facility, located at 55 Victoria Street North, one block north of Summit. The company recently completed renovations on the 100-year-old architectural gem creating a beautiful, accessible and modern 430-seat theatre.

For 20 years, SteppingStone Theatre has produced high quality family entertainment and brought its unique brand of youth-centered theatre education to schools and community centers around the region. The theatre has grown to serve about 70,000 youth, families, and educators from diverse ethnic, social and economic backgrounds each year, quietly becoming one of the premier theatres for young audiences in the country. With the company's move to its first permanent home, SteppingStone Theatre is establishing itself as the destination for interactive, youth-centered theatre in Saint Paul.
 

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