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Insurrection: Holding History

A dramatic fantasy by Robert O’Hara

Department of Theatre & Drama

March 30 - April 9, 2017 • Arthur Miller Theatre




Struggling with his graduate thesis on slavery, Ron, a gay, black student at Columbia, attends a family reunion to celebrate his great-great-grandfather T.J.’s 189th birthday. Despite the fact that T.J. can’t move, hear, or speak, T.J. (given voice by the spirit of Mutha Wit) convinces Ron to take him back to his old home in Virginia. Fracturing the space-time continuum as they go further south, they arrive on the eve of Nat Turner’s doomed 1831 uprising to see Nat Turner himself racing through the woods. Encouraged to understand his ‘past’ in order to understand his ‘present’ and the perception-altering confrontation with what it means to be ‘free’, Ron discovers that how the authenticity of history unfolds depends on the perception of the storyteller.

Winner of the Oppenheimer Award for Best New American Play in 1996,Insurrection: Holding Historyis a fanciful dramatization of Black history by multi award-winning playwright and director Robert O’Hara. Written during his artist-in-residency at the NY Public Theater, the play garnered immediate acclaim for the burgeoning playwright earning comparisons to a cross between Roots and The Wizard of Oz. The San Francisco Examiner called it “One seriously hilarious and hilariously serious play… remarkably exciting, deeply provocative, [and] comically profound.” Wonderfully witty with time-bending fantastical turns,Insurrection: Holding History is a wild, thrilling ride between past and present.

This play contains depictions of violence, cruelty, and strong language that may prove offensive to some. Recommended for mature audiences.




Artistic Staff


Director Timothy Douglas
Scenic Designer Eleanor Howell-Shryock
Costume Designer Michaela Tanksley
Lighting Designer Christian DeAngelis
Sound Designer Henry Reynolds
Original Music Vincent Olivieri
Stage Manager Jacqueline Saldana



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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower