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APSU Hosts One-Woman Play on Harriet Beecher Stowe

         CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In the early 1850s, the Rev. Joel Parker met with a young author who’d just written an enormous, best-selling novel – Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” was creating a firestorm across the country, which was deeply divided over the issue of slavery.

         CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In the early 1850s, the Rev. Joel Parker met with a young author who’d just written an enormous, best-selling novel – Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” was creating a firestorm across the country, which was deeply divided over the issue of slavery.

            Parker, an esteemed Presbyterian minister, had what seems like a small complaint about the book. It had to do with a footnote in chapter 12. That footnote attributed him as the speaker of pro-slavery statements. Almost anyone who read a newspaper at that time knew of Parker’s quibble with the book, and that he threatened Stowe with a $20,000 libel suit.

            But Parker never filed the suit. He met with Stowe, but no one knows what exactly transpired during their conversation. The actress Elizabeth Davidson, however, believes she has a pretty good idea. She spent five years researching the life of the notorious author in order to write her one-woman show, “Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Literary Soldier.”

            Davidson will present a free performance of her play at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 21, in Austin Peay State University’s Trahern Theatre. She will also deliver a lecture earlier that day at 12:20 p.m. in Trahern room 420B that is also open to the public.

            Davidson’s play, which went through 17 drafts to get the biographical and historical details correct, depicts a fictionalized account of what might have taken place during Stowe’s meeting with Parker.

            “In Ms. Davidson’s hands, Harriet and her characters come off the page and into our minds and hearts,” Carol Ponder, a First National Teaching Artist Fellow, said. “History breathes and her audiences are changed by the power of her words and performance.”

            Davidson, a professional actor with more than 35 years of experience, was invited by APSU’s Area of Theatre and Dance to perform her play.

            “Her lecture and performance are timely as they help to celebrate African-American history and the Civil War’s sesquicentennial,” Dr. Sarah Gotcher, professor of theatre at APSU, said. “They help us understand our past.”

            For more information on the performance or the lecture, contact the APSU Area of Theatre and Dance at 221-6767.