Arts and Culture / Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Spirituals Project Choir to accompany play about abolitionist

The Spirit of Frederick Douglass is coming to the Newman Center for the Performing Arts Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. The play draws from the speeches and letters of Douglass (1818–95), who rose from the bonds of slavery to become one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement. Accompanying the play, the 75-voice Spirituals Project Choir will perform a selection of spirituals arranged by contemporary composers.

The Douglass character will be portrayed by the Shadow Theatre’s founder Jeffrey Nickelson, an actor, director, producer and singer, and by actor/director Hugo Jon Sayles. 

The performance is a collaboration of the Shadow Theatre Company and the Spirituals Project, a nonprofit based at DU for the last three years. DU psychology professor Arthur Jones, founder and chair of the Spirituals Project, says the organization’s goals include preserving and revitalizing the music and teachings of the folk songs created by enslaved Africans in America. 

Jones says some of the best-known songs from the days of slavery — “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Wade in the Water” — still thrive today.

Tickets for the performance, which will be the project’s annual fundraiser, are $25–$35 for adults and $22–$32 for seniors and students. Tickets for a pre-show reception are $100, which includes the performance and VIP seating. 

A dress rehearsal will take place Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. General admission seating for the rehearsal is $12. As part of an ongoing community outreach program, 800 Denver metro-area middle school and high school students from public and private schools will attend the rehearsal. 

With the help of donations from DU departments and schools, the Spirituals Project provided the schools with educational curriculum workbooks to provide context for the performance. They’re also bussing students from their schools and providing them with meals and free tickets.

For information and tickets, contact the Newman Center box office in person or at 303-871-7720. Tickets also are available through Ticketmaster at, 303-357-2787 or at any Ticketmaster outlet. 

The Newman Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2344 E. Iliff Ave. Paid parking is available in the Newman Center garage.

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