TRAVERSE CITY — She may have been diminutive in stature, but Harriet Tubman was a force to be reckoned with.
Born into slavery, Tubman has become an American icon for her work as a civil rights activist, abolitionist, suffragist and even a Union spy. She is also the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, leading hundreds of slaves to freedom in the northern United States and Canada.
Tubman remains a hero to many today, including to Leslie McCurdy, who has written and performs in a one-woman play called, “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman.” Celebrating Tubman’s life, the show will be on stage in Milliken Auditorium at the Dennos Museum Center Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m.
On a minimally lit, barren stage McCurdy portrays Tubman as she recounts the story of her life, from her early years as a house slave to her daring rescues and later years helping others.
McCurdy uses what have been said to be Tubman’s own words to recreate her stories and convey the faith and conviction that defined Tubman’s life.
Gene Jenneman, executive director at the Dennos. was treated to a preview of McCurdy’s play at a meeting last June and said that it is a “must see.”
“She blew everyone away — her voice, her characterization, and everything about it was fantastic. It just made the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” he said.
This is McCurdy’s 16th season performing “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman” and she never tires of it.
“Harriet Tubman’s been my personal hero since I was in grade five,” said the actress, who stages between 100 and 150 shows a year.
“I enjoy performing it and look forward to it,” she said. “Each performance is new, each audience is different and I’ve changed along the way.”
The play is being presented as part of “Embrace the Dream,” a new series of local events that celebrates Black History Month in February, Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 21 and the ideals of tolerance and diversity.
Jenneman said that the play, which McCurdy will also be perform at local schools during the day, ties into the area’s celebration of Black History Month and much more.
“I’m hoping people come out not only for the story’s significance, but to see a brilliant performance and see what’s going in Traverse City with ‘Embrace the Dream,’” he said.
McCurdy hopes her work will inspire people to talk about Black History Month year round.
“I think it’s difficult to talk about the history of North America without talking about the black history,” she said.
Tickets are $10. Purchase online at www.dennosmuseum.org or call the box office at 995-1553.