Musical premiere of Frederick Douglass at Arena Stage – NBC4 Washington

The life of Frederick Douglass takes center stage in “American Prophet: Frederick Douglass In His Own Words,” a new musical about the abolitionist premiering August 15 at Arena Stage.

The musical, written by Marcus Hummon and Charles Randolph-Wright, focuses on Douglass’ origin, background and wife, Anna. It features words from his speeches and an original score.

“It’s Frederick Douglass. So to be able to play such a character who is truly part of the fabric of American history is truly a joy and an honor,” said Cornelius Smith Jr., who plays Frederick Douglass.

Smith said the play changes expectations by focusing on Douglass’ early life and career.

“We’re actually focusing on when he was this young man really at this pivotal point of finding out and digging up who we know him today, this great kind of prophet, this great abolitionist, this great leader and fighter for freedom,” Smith said.

“I just think it’s really powerful that his presence and his work have words that still live on and resonate with us individually and across culture and society,” Smith added.

“American Prophet” also tells the story of Anna Douglass, the first wife of Frederick Douglass, who played a central role in his life. It’s a story that viewers may not have known.

I think that’s a beautiful thing about theater and just entertaining is when you can have the best of both worlds, where you can go and be entertained, but also learn something you didn’t know,” Smith said.

“American Prophet” plays at Arena Stage until August 28.