May 24, 2017

McCarter Partners With Princeton University

McCarter Theatre Center is proud to announce its participation in a new partnership with Princeton University, commissioning seven professional playwrights to write short plays to be presented with the 2017 launch of the Princeton and Slavery Project.

An impressive collection of award-winning playwrights will take part in this project, including Nathan Alan Davis, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Dipika Guha, recently announced MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Emily Mann, and Regina Taylor. The public readings will be directed by Patricia McGregor. These commissions are made possible by generous support from Mathematica Policy Research, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and the Princeton University Histories Fund.

The plays will be developed in response to research conducted by Princeton Professor of History Martha A. Sandweiss, University Archivist Daniel Linke, and a team of undergraduates and doctoral history students. Playwrights will have access to historical material, letters, and artifacts and will collaborate directly with scholars. A public reading of the plays will anchor an academic symposium coinciding with the national rollout of the Princeton and Slavery Project, planned for November 2017.

Regarding McCarter’s involvement, Princeton and Slavery Project Director Martha A. Sandweiss says “From the start, we’ve wanted to bring our findings to a broad public in ways that extend well beyond the conventional academic symposium. The historical records sometimes fall flat, remaining silent when we so want to hear our characters’ voices. This is where the playwrights’ imaginations come in. I see our work together as a true collaboration, leading to a richer and more imaginative, but historically grounded, understanding of the past.”

Brian Greenfield, executive director of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, agrees. “Initiatives like the McCarter Theatre Princeton and Slavery Project exemplify how exploration of the humanities can fuel artistic production. The collaborative elements in the project will encourage both project and community participants to engage deeply with history and reflect on the relationship between the past and our contemporary culture.”

Spearheaded by Martha A. Sandweiss (Princeton history professor and author of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line), the Princeton and Slavery Project is engaged with the documentary evidence which links the history of Princeton University to the institution of slavery in the U.S.

The correlation between slavery and America’s first centers of learning has been a topic of great discussion for more than a decade, including Brown University’s seminal Slavery and Justice program and Rutgers University’s Scarlet and Black project. Princeton University, however, holds a unique position in the history of American slavery and freedom with a student population from the southern states exceeding that of other eastern universities, reaching as high as 60 percent in the antebellum years.

Years of research, archives, and detailed findings will be made public in the fall of 2017, when a website, art installations, exhibitions, and student projects carried out by university departments and community cultural partners will spark a broad range of conversations on campus and beyond.

For more information on the Princeton and Slavery Project, including biographies for all playwrights, academic representatives, and funders, please visit