Feb. 7, 2014

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Prof’s Play on Prudence Crandall To Be Staged 2/11 at HCC

BRIDGEPORT - Dear Prudence, a one-act, one-actress play about Connecticut’s Prudence Crandall, will be staged Tuesday, Feb. 11 at Housatonic Community College.
The play, written by HCC English instructor Cindy Wolfe Boynton, deals with Crandall’s later life in Kansas. "I don't think people here quite know what to make of me," Crandall says in the play, referring to her continued work for civil and women's rights, which she carried out well into her late 80s.

Crandall founded the first school for African-American girls in Canterbury, Conn.in 1833. This triggered a public outcry that escalated into warnings, threats, and acts of violence against the school and saw the Connecticut legislature pass the "Black Law", which prohibited schools with African American students from outside the state without the town's permission.

Crandall was arrested and jailed for violating this law. The first trial ended in a hung jury but Crandall was convicted in the second trial.

A higher court reversed the decision, but on a technicality, not on principle, and angry townspeople continued to harass Crandall and her students. They threw stones, eggs, and mud at the schoolhouse and attempted to light it on fire.

On the night of Sept. 9, 1834, the townspeople made one last attempt to drive the schoolhouse to close by breaking most of the windows and smashing furniture in an angry mob attack. Although she had won her legal battle, Crandall feared for her students’ safety and decided to close the school.

The play made its world debut in New York City at the United Solo Theater Festival, a month-long event that featured more than 150 one-act, one-person plays.

The play will be performed by Connecticut-based actor Brenda L. Jacobson, who made her New York theatrical debut with Dear Prudence. Other appearances include a regional commercial for Yale-New Haven Hospital and the much-anticipated web series, "Pleading Sanity."

Her community theatre credits include Aunt Eller in "Oklahoma" and Cassie in "Rumors" (Orange Players), Pauline in "Prisoner of Second Avenue" (The Repertory Theater of New Britain), and a number of other productions. She has also appeared in several indie movie trailers.

Boynton is an award-winning journalist, playwright, poet and writing instructor whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Boston Globe, Connecticut Magazine and Better Health, among other print and online publications. An English and communications instructor at both the Yale School of Medicine and HCC, she also teaches popular creative and business writing workshops and is host of the weekly Literary New England Radio Show. Her 2010 play "Right Time to Say I Love You" focuses on her struggles as part of the Sandwich Generation and taking care of her mother with Parkinson’s disease.

The play will begin at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center in Lafayette Hall. It is free and open to the public.

HCC is located at 900 Lafayette Boulevard in downtown Bridgeport, less than 150 yards off I-95 (Exit 27) and Rte. 8 (Exit 1), a block from the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard. Free parking is available in the Housatonic garage.