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February 20, 2014

Spotlight on Garrison

Play looks at life of Newburyport's famous abolitionist


Kimberly Holliday, who plays the narrator in “The Liberator,” was particularly excited earlier this week to try on her elaborate outfit, complete with a hoop skirt and corset.

It’s a costume the audience will see a lot, as Holliday is in nearly every scene.

“She helps explain the historical facts but also interacts with the characters,” Holliday said. “She raises the questions that some of the audience might have.”

“She holds the play together,” Harris said.

At the first reading, the actors simply wore black, so the addition of costumes has helped them connect even more with their characters.

Woody Woodiel, who plays three characters — Allen; poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, a friend of Garrison’s; and another Herald editor, Joseph Morse — is also embracing the opportunity to add movement to his performances.

“It’s different in that before it was just a seated reading,” he said. “Now I’m able to bring physicality to the characters: from Joseph’s limp to Ephraim’s efficaciousness.”

For Charlie Bradley, the chance to embody three very different people is the best gift he could receive as an actor. Bradley plays Caleb Cushing, who was the first mayor of Newburyport and the state attorney general from 1853 to 1857; William Huse, an owner of the Herald; and the bailiff in the play’s court scene, which details Garrison’s trial and subsequent conviction for libel.

“It’s the most wonderful thing in the world,” he said of playing multiple roles. “The reward is immeasurable.”

Bradley said he is also really enjoying revisiting “The Liberator” a year and a half later.

“To be able to reprise it, it’s a really, really fun script,” he said. “(Harris has) brought the feel of the language of the time to everyone’s words. When I speak it as an actor, it speaks itself.”

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