‘Harpers Ferry’ at Know Theatre Masterfully Explores History and Privilege

“What does justice look like for those who are pushed to the margins?”

Review by Ariel Mary Ann

Know Theatre returned to their main stage with the opening of Harpers Ferry
written by Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin and directed by Tamara Winters. Set in a National Park
in West Virginia, this show explores complicated history, privilege, and the tough conversations
that we often don’t have.

Walking into the theatre space, the first thing you notice is the set design. Sitting in the middle of the stage are 3 large columns made to look like shelving, a table with 3 chairs and, to the side, a TV on a stand. The staging really pulls you in and leads you to want to know more about this world and the story that unfolds.

In the beginning, we are introduced to the 3 characters of this show, Celia (Veronica
Dang), Paul (Samuel Fisher), and Jay (Ryan-Chavez Richmond). All play the park rangers of Harper’s Ferry and right from the jump, Dang, Fisher and Richmond are able to play off of each other’s chemistry and balance each other out. Dang brings such youthful energy to her character and we see that through how she interacts with Richmond’s character, Jay. Richmond finds a balance between embracing seriousness and letting go all in the same moment. Fisher really leans into the comedy of the show as Paul and manages to play opposite the serious energy of Richmond. Together they create a beautiful
masterpiece of art.

Although a comedy, Garvin has utilized this genre as a way to weave in serious topics centering
around race, rewriting history to fit a particular narrative, and questioning what it means to be an
ally when you’re someone who holds white privilege. Theatre is not only a safe space but a
brave space where these conversations need to happen. Garvin skillfully lets the audience in and in a way, turns the mirror to them and asks, “What does justice look like for those who are pushed to the margins?” Her writing is both comedic and deeply moving. It’s not often that we discuss the prevalence of progressive white people and how they fail to listen to those being oppressed by systematic discrimination but Garvin isn’t afraid to have this conversation. She isn’t afraid to step into this space of holding those in power accountable.

Tamara Winters truly has an eye for direction. She masterfully brings this story from page to
stage in such a skillful way. On a personal note, there’s something to be said about the power of
women in theatre. My hat goes off to my fellow women and non men making art and taking up
space as they rightfully should.

Andrew Hungerford, as the scenic and lighting designer, really brings this show to life through
the 3 column set piece seen throughout the entire play. He manages to pull the audience from
one location to another simply by rotating each column. His usage of lighting sets the mood of
each scene and highlights the moments of tension between characters.

Overall, this show is a must see for audiences who are ready to have those tough conversations
and bear witness to Garvin’s deeply moving work. Harpers Ferry 2019 runs from March 4th through March 20th. Tickets can be found HERE.

Ariel Mary Ann is a University of Cincinnati alum, and local theatre lover and performer.

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