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A Reading of the Play, Free Man of Color, by Charles Smith

February 10 @ 3:00 pm - 5:30 pm

An antique image of the Ohio University College Green.

Free Man of Color, by OHIO Distinguished Professor of Playwriting Emeritus Charles Smith, is the story of John Newton Templeton, a formerly enslaved African American who graduated from Ohio University fifty years before the end of slavery. In the process, Templeton unexpectedly taught the president of the university the true meaning of education.

Emancipated after the death of his enslaver, John Newton Templeton travels to the free state of Ohio where he meets an avowed abolitionist Presbyterian minister Robert Wilson. Wilson, president of the fledging Ohio University, saw the opportunity to use the young Templeton to prove to the pro-slavery factions in America that African Americans were capable of the same academic excellence as whites. President Wilson brings Templeton to his home that she shares with his wife, Jane, where Templeton works as the couple’s “student servant” while attending classes. Although Templeton excels in most areas of study, his achievements in other areas are quite different than what Wilson had wanted, needed, and expected. In this play about race, culture, and the differences between education and assimilation in America, Wilson is forced to reevaluate his abolitionist views.

Free Man of Color received its world premiere at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago and was performed on the OHIO campus for the university’s 2004 Bicentennial celebration. Recipient of the 2004 Jeff Award for Best New Work, the play has been produced by theaters across the country including The Colony Theatre in Burbank, CA.; Penguin Rep in Stony Point, NY; Off-Broadway by Penguin Rep in Association with Chase Mishkin, 59E59, New York; and Independent Theatre, Adelaide, South Australia. It has been published by Dramatic Publishing and Northwestern Press.

This presentation of Free Man of Color will take place as a stage door show on the stage of Templeton Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, Saturday, February 10 at 3:00 p.m. The presentation will be directed by Shelley Delaney, OHIO School of Theater professor emerita who originated the role of Jane for the world premiere production. Tyler Rollinson, 2009 OHIO BFA in Acting, will be featured as John Newton Templeton; Ellie Clark 2015 OHIO MFA in Acting and current Assistant Professor in the School of Theater, will be featured as Jane Wilson; and Evan Bergman, an Atlanta-based actor, theatre director, and educator, will be featured as Robert Wilson. A talkback with the playwright, Charles Smith, will follow the presentation.

The event is free and open to the public with a suggested donation to the Division of Diversity and Inclusion which includes numerous programs and scholarships from which to choose.


February 10
3:00 pm - 5:30 pm
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Ohio University


Templeton Blackburn Memorial Alumni Auditorium
33 University Terrace
Athens, OH 45701 United States
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