Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed Illinois slave eking out a living in 1830 New Orleans, stows away aboard The Republic, an outbound rigger, to evade debtors enforcing marriage. But his clever escape backfires as the clipper turns out to be a slave ship bound for Africa. Calhoun must choose between a fanatical captain, a mutinous crew, and the Africans seeking escape. Building on a tradition of African American storytelling, this tale challenges perceptions of American identity using a Black aesthetic. We are at a critical historical moment in which issues such as racism, classism, poverty, and the meaning of freedom impact us all.
Co-adaptors Ilesa Duncan and David Barr III, Lifeline Artistic Director, revisit Johnson’s epic tale, originally mounted at Pegasus Theatre in 2016 under the title Rutherford’s Travels, to share a tale of personal growth within a dark phase of American history. Of Middle Passage, the Chicago Tribune said, “Long after we’d stopped believing in the great American novel, along comes a spellbinding adventure story that may be just that.”
Based on the novel by Charles Johnson
Adapted by Ilesa Duncan & David Barr III
Directed by Ilesa Duncan
Audio Description and Touch Tour
Saturday, February 29
Touch tour: 2:30pm
Sunday, March 1 at 4pm
Friday, March 27 at 7:30pm
Visit our Accessibility page for more information.