Skip to main content
Skip to main menu Skip to spotlight region Skip to secondary region Skip to UGA region Skip to Tertiary region Skip to Quaternary region Skip to unit footer


Favored by the Muses

Alan Flurry

The department of theatre and film studies and the Willson Center present an original performance presentation Favored by the Muses, the culmination of a year-long collaboration between UGA and TCU Humanities and Education programs that celebrates the literary and cultural legacy of America’s first published black female poet, Phillis Wheatley Peters(1753-1784), and the sesquicentennial of her collection, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773):

This performance project represents an innovative collaboration between faculty and students in the University of Georgia's departments of English, Theatre and Film Studies, African Studies, African American Studies, Music, Digital Media, and Dance, as well as Athens community members. They recreate elements of 1934’s Phillis Wheatley Pageant, written by the early 20th century Black activist, educator, and clubwoman, Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954). Composed by Terrell to critically commemorate the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth while honoring the heritage of Phyllis Wheatley, the Phyllis Wheatley Pageant tells the story of the poet’s kidnapping from Senegambia, her enslavement as a child in 1761, and her subsequent rise to transatlantic literary fame as a teen and young adult. The script for Favored by the Muses is written and directed by Professor George Contini (Performance Area Head and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, Theatre & Film Studies). It is drawn completely from his research of Terrell’s manuscripts and letters held at the Library of Congress and Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.

The cast is headed by Dr. Freda Scott Giles (Emerita Professor, Theatre & Film Studies), who portrays Terrell delivering a speech to Delta Sigma Theta sorority members about her rationale for and experience creating the pageant. Terrell was a major advocate of overlooked Black artists and musicians. In the pageant, for example, she included the music of the pioneering Black composers Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912).  Professor James Weidman (Music, African American Studies) will conduct selections from their compositions during the performance. In addition, Professor Jason Aryeh (Dance, African Studies) has choreographed authentic African dance pieces. The ensemble for Favored by the Muses includes Aayush Umesh, Shea Cianfrani, Shalom Osoba, Mia Reese, Jeshua Segura-Dominguez, Bethany Southerland, and Robert Tucker. Media Design is by Philip Brankin. Stage Managers are Elliot Smith and Faith Horton.

The presentation will takes the stage during Spotlight on the Arts Festival on November 6 in the Balcony Theatre (Room 400) of the Fine Arts Building at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A with participants.  This event is free and open to the public and is generously funded by a Public Impact Grant from the Willson Center.


Support Franklin College

We appreciate your financial support. Your gift is important to us and helps support critical opportunities for students and faculty alike, including lectures, travel support, and any number of educational events that augment the classroom experience. Click here to learn more about giving.