BY: Nikkole Salter
THE STORY: Prince George's County, MD, 1859. Hannah, a rela-
tively contented enslaved woman, has her world rocked when
her master dies and she, for the first time, is separated from
her family, new husband, and baby. But, just as she begins to
lose all hope to ever see her husband and child again, the
seceded south falls to the Union, slavery is abolished with the 13th Amendment, and Hannah has the opportunity to put her family back together...if she can find them.
TORN ASUNDER dramatizes true stories of newly emancipated African Americans trying to overcome the ever-present vestiges of chattel slavery to reconnect with their families. Based on the research of Dr. Heather Andrea Williams in her book HELP ME TO FIND MY PEOPLE. (Commissioned by Dr. Heather Andrea Williams and Kathy A. Perkins)
TORN ASUNDER was presented in workshop production at the University of North Carolina, Winston Salem's "Telling Our Stories of Home" Festival, March 31-April 8, 2016 in conjunction with the Institue for Arts and the Humanities' Process Series.
TORN ASUNDER received its world premiere at the St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre April 13 - 29, 2018, directed by Ron Himes. Set design: Dunsi Dai; Lighting Design: Kathy A. Perkins; Costume Design: Daryl Harris; Sound Design: Kareem Deans; Prop Design: Kate Slovenski; Projection Design: Geordy Van Es; Stage Manager: Tracy D. Holliway-Wiggins; Technical Director: Jonah Scheckler..
NY Times Sunday Book Review - HELP ME TO FIND MY PEOPLE
US National Archive Interview - PROF. HEATHER ANDREA WILLIAMS
Starring LaShunda Gardner, Myke Andrews, Alan Knoll, Brandi Threats, Graham Emmons, & Carl Overly
LINKS TO PRESS & REVIEWS from the St. Louis Black Rep Production
By Mark Bretz - 12/26/2018
#"5: Torn Asunder at The Black Rep. Nikkole Salter’s moving, profound and magnificent drama about the search of a former slave for her husband, separated from her when he is sold off in the shadow of the Civil War, was given its stunning world premiere by The Black Rep. Salter’s marvelous prose was elevated to epic status with searing performances by an excellent ensemble under producing director Ron Himes’ astute direction, making this a poignant and unforgettable saga."
By Judith Newmark - 04/16/2018
“The absorbing drama making its world premiere at the Black Rep, “Torn Asunder,” takes place long ago, around the time of the Civil War. But if you have a family, it’s easy to relate to...No ending to Hannah’s story could be entirely satisfying. But the one Salter gives us feels right..”
By Mark Bretz - 04/20/2018
“The Black Rep closes its 2017-18 season with the world premiere of a moving, profound and magnificent drama written by Nikkole Salter. Searing performances by an excellent ensemble under Ron Himes’ astute direction make Torn Asunder a poignant and unforgettable saga...Himes elicits superior performances by his truly outstanding troupe of players, who make Torn Asunder pulsate with affecting emotions as well as depicting the tortured history of the nation, especially in the South...Torn Asunder is a remarkable piece of theater, elevated to epic status by Salter’s marvelous prose and a cadre of searing, unforgettable performances by Himes’ accomplished players...RATING: A 5 on a scale of 1-to-5.”
By Kenya Vaughn - 04/26/2018
“There is an ache that lingers long after the final scene of The Black Rep’s season finale “Torn Asunder” fades to black...The play is a haunting reminder of the resilience of African Americans and showcases the unshakable will of a people to build a legacy through family and communities rooted in love despite the hate and inhumanity that shaped their existence...“Torn Asunder” gives the ills of slavery and the ripple effects that still penetrate the African American experience more than 150 years after emancipation an authentically haunting post script."
By Tina Farmer - 04/27/2018
“The Black Rep gives audiences much to consider and reflect upon with a sharply directed world premiere production of “Torn Asunder.” The deeply moving tragedy, drawn from our nation’s history, shows us some unpleasant realities about the slave trade. Stirring, honest and emotionally connected performances ensure the audience cares what happens, and the play’s conclusion is at once sweetly satisfying and devastatingly painful....Playwright Salter and director Ron Himes do a masterful job of not simply bringing this story to life, but of creating a space where we can look at unpleasant truths many would rather ignore but we need to see."
By Kenya Vaughn - 03/29/2018
“When I read this play, I probably cried through the last 40 pages,” said Ron Himes, founder and producing director of The St. Louis Black Repertory Company...As soon as I finished the last page, I called Nikkole and said, ‘I want to do this play next year,’” Himes said. “From then on it’s just been me figuring out how to be able to put the resources behind it to give it the production that I feel the story deserves.”
By Jerald Raymond Pierce - 04/06/2018
“Most people consider family to be the stabilizing institution of their lives,” Salter said. “That’s why when someone comes from a ‘broken family,’ we all tilt our head to the side and go, ‘Oh, what an uphill battle you must have.’ Because it’s such an important source of love and stability in a person’s life and their capacity to be able to achieve their destiny. So when you think about how our families were intentionally broken and how we tried to recover, you have a greater appreciation for that family unit.”
By Judith Newmark - 04/11/2018
“I write in a narrative style because I want people who are descended from slaves to read this book, not just professors. But Nikkole created full characters and whole stories from scraps of history [says Dr. Heather Williams].”
The HEC-TV program "Two on the Aisle" reviews TORN ASUNDER - April 26, 2018.
"Two on the Aisle" is a biweekly look at St. Louis theatre hosted by veteran critics Bob Wilcox and Gerry Kowarsky. The program features reviews of local and touring productions, interviews with people active in the theatre, and a calendar of upcoming shows.