Whitfield Sims grew up in Darlington, South Carolina, and eventually attended Yale, approximately when George W. Bush did, for a post-grad apprenticeship in modern theater for a year and a half. His peers in SC had told him he'd never make it; he also spent a year studying classical theater at the Stratford Theater in England. This year, February 25, 26 & 27, he's bringing the esteemed human rights hero Frederick Douglass to the stage at ARTworks in Beaufort Town Center. "i have always been inspired by Frederick Douglass. When I was in college, I did my masters in journalism, and one of the things that inspired me to do so was that I had studied The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. When he came out with his paper, the North Star, other papers patterned after his model, his writing style. When I read his speeches, it was his eloquence that inspired the character I developed for the theater," explained Sims. As a director, Sims sees Douglass as a vehicle for education as well, and will also perform his one-man show at Lady's Island Elementary. Sims is the creative director for Creative Arts Development in Charleston, and the former director of the youth company of Black Spectrum Theatre in New York. Combined with the drama of Douglass' drive for abolition and fiery skills as an orator, you will find an artist who takes pride in possessing the soul of character and achieving outward believability— not only in the historical figure of Douglass, but of the equality for which he fought. Douglass, by the way, embraced women's rights as well. What's the point of attending, other than an enjoyable evening in the black box theater at ARTworks? One point is— history tries, and does sometimes, repeat itself. In 1857, Douglass spoke on the Dred Scott decision, which was a low point in the history of the Supreme Court: "This is one view. It is, thank God, only one view; there is another, and a brighter view. David, you know, looked small and insignificant when going to meet Goliath, but looked larger when he had slain his foe. The Malakoff was, to the eye of the world, impregnable, till the hour it fell before the shot and shell of the allied army. Thus hath it ever been. Oppression, organized as ours is, will appear invincible up to the very hour of its fall. Sir, let us look at the other side, and see if there are not some things to cheer our heart and nerve us up anew in the good work of emancipation." From American-born slaves in the 1800s to alleged "anchor babies" in the 2010s, some people still seek to create second class citizens; but cheer up, Whitfield Sims is here to speak true words with a voice for all to hear. "Frederick Douglass" the one-man show with Whitfield Sims, Jr. is February 25-26, 2011, 8pm; February 27, 3pm, in the black box theater at ARTworks in Beaufort Town Center. $15 per person, $10 for students (13+), $5 for children (12 & under) $10 for groups of 10 or more. 843-379-2787 and online at www.ArtWorksInBeaufort.org.
The Manifold Inspirations and Paramount Eloquence of Frederick Douglass