Synopsis of TAWAWA HOUSE
Music and Libretto by Zenobia Powell Perry
Reconstructed and Revised by Jeannie Gayle Pool
The year is 1852 as we listen to the individual stories of the
resort hotel staff and spa,Tawawa House, in Xenia Springs,
Ohio, including free African Americans, former slaves, and
runaway slaves. Local residents and travelers gathered here to
drink and bathe in the waters of the springs, to hunt on the
spacious grounds, to dance to fiddle music, enjoy a shooting
match, or a horse race, or to get drunk and argue political
issues. Southern gentlemen vacationed there with their slave
mistresses and children.The resort's owners, in cooperation with
local Quakers and other church people, offer protection and
work to runaways as they seek freedom in the North, and
Tawawa House becomes a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Will reads the notices published in the paper offering rewards
for runaways. Bounty hunters comb the area looking for
runaways and neighbors complain about the questionable
activities of the resort. On Sunday morning, the staff and guests
gather together for an outdoor worship service that concludes in
a Call and Response number with a Shout Dance.
Rise of political unrest throughout the nation in the late 1850s
makes the resort less viable. Humanitarian concerns of the
Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church for
the many colored persons staffing and surrounding the hotel led
to its purchase in 1856 for a school for colored youths, named
the Ohio African University. As the Civil War draws near,
support for the university dwindles and the hotel staff (now also
students) struggle to fed and care for the continuous influx of
runaways. In 1863, the property was purchased by the African
Methodist Episcopal Church and naming it after the renowned
British Abolitionist, William Wilberforce. White Southern
gentlemen continue to send their mixed-race offsping to
Tawawa House for safekeeping and an education.The school
choir sings publicly to raise funds, including a performance at a
famous Cincinnati church. There someone tells Fanny and
Candy they know their mother and will try to reunite the girls with
her. The Civil War rages and the men students wonder if they
should become soldier, and if so, on what side? The Union or
the Confederacy? After years of barely surviving, they decide to
have a celebration to formally unite couples among them, a
“Jumping the Broom” wedding ceremony. Fanny’s mother finally
arrives to be reunited with her daughters.The war ends, but
hostility against the university peaked in 1865, when the main
building was destroyed in a fire set by a mob on April 14, 1965---
the very same day that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The
fire inspired a renewed national commitment to the university
and it was rebuilt on the same tract of land, and continues today
as Wilberforce University.
©Jaygayle Music, Los Angeles, 2014.
TAWAWA HOUSE REVIEWS
For a review of the May 2014 production on the Africlassical.
blogspot, click here.
For another review of the May 2014 production by Allan Cronin,
on his New Music Buff blog, Click here.