The Irondale Ensemble Project is as close as we come these days to the Elizabethan acting companies that once presented Shakespeare’s plays to the Earl of Leicester, Sir Francis Drake and the Virgin Queen of England. ...What is on offer is the miracle of the word made flesh. I wish you joy in it.” —Lewis Lapham, editor of Lapham’s Quarterly
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Irondale Ensemble Project presents

Color Between the Lines

April 26 - May 24, 2012

19th Century Brooklyn. Its waterfront is a busy and vibrant port vital to domestic and international trade; its warehouses filled with sugar, molasses, and tobacco. Brooklyn is built on the business of slavery.

Against these powerful forces arose a dedicated group of men and women black and white, some famous, some who have come down through history as little more than dimly remembered names who labored for years in pursuit of freedom and justice for their fellow Americans and for themselves.

There was Henry Ward Beecher, of course, famed abolitionist preacher at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, the one man you may know. His sister wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Abraham Lincoln called him the most famous man in America.

There was James Pennington, blacksmith, pastor, educator, and fugitive from Maryland who settled in Brooklyn in 1829. He was educated at a Long Island Sabbath school and his life profoundly changed. Pennington dedicated himself to abolishing slavery and fighting for equal political and legal rights by tackling discrimination on the city's public transportation system.

There were the Gloucesters, James and Elizabeth, supporters of John Brown, founded the newspaper The Colored Patriot. At the time of her death, Elizabeth was one of the wealthiest women in the United States.

There was Fort Greene resident William J. Wilson, Weeksville resident Junius Morel, Brooklyn Heights residents the Tappan brothers, and Williamsburg residents the Hodges brothers.

Brooklynites, black and white, who went about living their lives with dignity and perseverance, who signed the petitions, raise the money, opened the schools, started the businesses and came together to change the direction of a nation. We sing their stories.


COLOR BETWEEN THE LINES is an original work devised by the Irondale ensemble and developed as part of the borough’s first public history project to explore the abolitionist movement in Brooklyn. The whole project, also known as IN PURSUIT OF FREEDOM, will bring to life this fascinating abolition story while teasing out the relevance of the subject for contemporary audiences. The project draws on the resources and capacities of two other leading Brooklyn cultural organizations, Brooklyn Historical Society and Weeksville Heritage Center.

In Fall 2013, all three organizations will unveil permanent exhibitions as part of an ambitious, historical and educational project, that will complement and add to the experience of seeing the play. The drama of the abolitionist movement is manifest in the physical environment. Many communities still meet in churches that were centers of resistance. Buildings that were once were abolitionists’ homes or meeting venues abound. The waterfront is still littered with the warehouses and other buildings that were essential for exchange and trade with the slave holding states. At twenty of these sites highly visible “markers” will be erected as permanent reminders of the history of the location to passers by. Elements of these exciting exhibitions will be displayed throughout the historic Irondale Center to offer glimpses of what IN PURSUIT OF FREEDOM will become as the project moves through into 2013.


Color Between the Lines

April 26 - May 24
Tuesdays (7PM) and Previews - ONLY $10!
Wednesday - Saturday (8PM) - $35
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In Pursuit of Freedom Package!

On May 19, Irondale and Brooklyn Historical Society are teaming up for a great day. We are offering the chance for an afternoon behind the scenes tour of the Brooklyn Historical Society AND an evening performance of Irondale's Color Between the Lines. We only have room for 20 people so buy your ticket now.

3:00 p.m. Behind the Scenes tour of Brooklyn Historical Society, with Jacob Nadal, Director of the Library and Archives. Jake will show off some of the extraordinary letters, maps, and 19th century newspapers from the BHS collections that have informed our knowledge of Brooklyn's Abolitionist past.
8:00 p.m. Performance of Color Between the Lines followed by a discussion with the director.
Ticket price: $40 includes tour and show! Buy Now

In Pursuit of Freedom, a collaboration between Brooklyn Historical Society, Irondale Ensemble Project and Weeksville Heritage Center, is the first public history project to explore abolition and the anti-slavery movement in Brooklyn. For more information go to

In Pursuit of Freedom is funded by the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) Program; Mayor Michael Bloomberg; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the New York City Economic Development Corporation; the National Endowment for the Humanities; and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, with additional funds provided by The Bay and Paul Foundations, New York Community Trust, and Verizon Foundation.