The ninth winner of the Yale Drama Series is a searing and powerful drama of slave litigation, injustice, institutional racism, and the rule of law.
The winner of the 2015 Yale Drama Series playwriting competition was selected by Nicholas Wright, former Associate Director of London’s Royal Court. Barbara Seyda’s stunningly theatrical Celia, a Slave is a vivid tableau of interviews with the dead that interweaves oral histories with official archival records. Powerful, poetic, and stylistically bold, this work foregrounds twenty-three diverse characters to recall the events that led to the hanging of nineteen-year-old Celia, an African American slave convicted in a Missouri court of murdering her master, the prosperous landowner Robert Newsom, in 1855. Excavating actual trial transcripts and court records, Seyda bears witness to racial and sexual violence in U.S. history, illuminating the brutal realities of female slave life in the pre–Civil War South while exploring the intersection of rape, morality, economics, and gender politics that continue to resonate today.