On Friday April 28 at 7 p.m., lights will dim, the audience will fall silent, and the curtain will go up at the Hoboken High School Auditorium for the staged reading of George Cameron Grant’s play “Fortune.” Advanced theater students at Hoboken High School and their director, Danielle Miller, along with professional actress Joy Kelly and the Hoboken High School Chorus, will perform the reading as a fundraiser for the school’s 2017-2018 theater program, followed by an author Q&A. The reading will also raise money for food for the needy.
Students at Hoboken High School have already met playwright George Cameron Grant during a cold reading of Fortune. Some of the students participating are Lizeth Oliva, Jeane Cummins, David Rivera, Demeara Davenport, George Cameron Grant, Hannah Mack, Te' Janea Bradley-Johnson, Debby Moretti, Ivelisse Lorenzo, Aliyah Ramos, Raul Hernandez, Brandon Lyons, Andrew Moya, and Veronica Mannillo.
The theater program at HHS has won numerous awards over the years. Recently, the school took home 12 medals in the NJ Thespians Festival, competing against 35 other schools.
The play tells the true story of the life of Rose Fortune. It spans 90 years, two countries, and two wars.
Fortune, a slave born in Philadelphia in 1774, was uprooted with her family to Virginia when the Revolutionary War broke out. Fortune’s family became British loyalists. After the war was lost, they gained freedom and moved to a sanctuary in Nova Scotia. Losing her father along the way, Rose had to care for her mother while confronting the realities of freedom, including a scarcity of resources, unfriendly locals, and a need for employment.
Money raised by the reading will help provide food for the needy.
“The story is ultimately about a courageous 10-year-old girl who refuses to accept failure as an option, no as an answer, or despair as a destiny,” said author George Cameron Grant, interviewed by phone.
Grant said he first felt compelled to write Fortune’s story after coming across her unmarked grave during a midnight grave tour while on vacation in Annapolis Royal, Canada.
After learning her story, Grant said he felt he was on a mission.
“After hearing her story, it was like I could see her walking up and down Saint George Street with her wheelbarrow in a bonnet, and the power of that image was compelling. Yet no one has really heard of her,” said Grant. “It became my mission to not only learn more about her and tell her story but get a stone placed on her grave.“
Grant who has written over 12 plays, said writing Fortune was an experience unlike any other.
Grant met with the students after attending the very first cold reading. He hopes that residents will feel empowered and compelled to create something of their own after hearing her story.
Break a leg
Miller said that when she read the play, the “characters stuck with me for days.”
She had her students read the play and “they felt drawn to the story as well.”
Miller said she is having her students not only act in the play, but direct, create sound effects, produce, advertise, and create props and sets.
“Many of them may want to pursue this professionally as a career, but even more so, I view theater as a way to teach them to be successful in whatever they choose to do in life,” said Miller.
Miller said this won’t be like any other stage reading, as the students have been rehearsing for over a month and typical stage readings don’t go into as much detail as this one will.
“Typically in stage readings, everyone is sitting on stool at a table and reads the lines with full voices and characters, but we have morphed it into more of a performance. They will have their scripts in their hands but it will actually have blocking and props and such,” said Miller.
Will raise money for the needy
According to Grant and Miller the performance wont only be raising funds for the local high school theater program, but also food for those in need in Annapolis Royal.
“Through Skype we will do a simulcast of the show for an audience in the theater on Kings Street in Annapolis Royale,” said Grant. “The mayor has invited all the school children to attend and it will act as a fundraiser and food drive for people in the area.”
Grant said through his work he was contacted by well-known Canadian Sculptor Brad Hall, who will create a much-needed memorial for Rose Fortune in Garrison Cemetery. The memorial is scheduled to be unveiled on July 1 of this year on Canada Day.
Tickets are available at hhsnj.booktix.com/dept/Theatre at $20 for general admission and $10 for students.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.