New theater project sheds light on the Reconstruction era and the ratification of the 14th Amendment


Beginning on June 19, for select weeks, visitors can experience FOURTEEN, a moving theatrical performance that sheds new light on the Reconstruction era and the ratification of the 14th Amendment.

Through dramatic interpretation of original texts, the 30-minute performance—which is presented in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s new permanent exhibit, Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality—will bring to life the leaders, influential figures, and everyday Americans who were central to the Reconstruction era.

“It’s thrilling that visitors to the National Constitution Center will be able to experience a live theatrical performance of the moving words of heroes of the Reconstruction era—from Frederick Douglass to Harriet Jacobs—and of the congressional debates over the 14th Amendment,” said Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center. “FOURTEEN is an inspiring, heartbreaking, and creative work that brings to life the human stories and constitutional dramas of the Second Founding by allowing the Americans at the center of it to speak in their own words, using primary historical texts.”

To assist in the development of this theatrical performance, the National Constitution Center convened leading scholars—including Thavolia Glymph, professor of history and law at Duke University, and Darrell A. H. Miller, Melvin G. Shimm Professor of Law at Duke Law—to serve as advisors, and also assembled and engaged an advisory board of community members.

“It is critically important to teach today’s youth about the moments in history where people greatly debated whether or not black people could be citizens and about the black person’s fight for the right of citizenship,” said Thavolia Glymph, professor of history and law at Duke University. “The Center has this great exhibit on Reconstruction and the theater project, FOURTEEN, brings life to it. It makes it shine. It takes something that seems almost like a still life and animates it.”

FOURTEEN is created in collaboration and consultation with nationally recognized, award-winning artists and scholars, including Drama Desk Award-winning theater artist Suli Holum; three-time Obie Award-winning playwright, director, and actor Ain GordonJohn Collins of the internationally acclaimed theater company Elevator Repair Service; Tony Award-winning sound designer and composer Rob Kaplowitz; and Barrymore Award-nominated sound and scenic designers Daniel Ison and Sara Outing. This production is led by the Center’s director of theatre programs Nora Quinn.

The production will open on June 19, Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans throughout the Confederate States of America, and will be performed in the Center’s Bank of America Family Theater adjacent to the main exhibit space. On June 19, FOURTEEN will run at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 2:30 p.m. After opening on June 19, FOURTEEN will run Tuesdays through Saturdays at select times during museum hours until August 10. The performance will return in fall 2019 and spring 2020.FOURTEEN is free with general admission, but seating is limited. Visitors can contact Group Sales at 215-409-6800 for more information or to reserve seats. This production has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

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