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Actor prepares for off-Broadway show

Slavery play: Rowan Vickers, right, with Phillip James Brannon

Bermudian actor Rowan Vickers has been taking professional strides since he graduated from the prestigious Juilliard School and is now preparing to appear in an off-Broadway production exploring the horrors of slavery.

He will perform alongside established actor Phillip James Brannon, who is known for his appearances in Contagion and Bootycandy, in the New York Theatre Workshop’s production of Nat Turner in Jerusalem.

And while the play opens the theatre’s productions of 2016 to 2017, James Bond star Daniel Craig will be hot on his heels in the theatre’s second production, Othello.

The play recalls the final hours of Nat Turner who led a slave uprising in 1831 that “shook the conscience of the nation”. Mr Vickers, 23, will play Thomas R. Gray, a lawyer who spends time with Turner (Mr Brannon) in his prison cell on the eve of his execution. Mr Vickers said the play had opened his eyes to part of history that he believed has not had the airtime it deserves.

He told The Royal Gazette: “The play covers the historical events surrounding Nat Turner and the slave insurrection of 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia. My character took it upon himself to visit him and write down his confession.

“It is such an important issue, the legacy of that horrific time in history. I had never heard of Nat Turner. I thought it was because I wasn’t a part of the American school system but I learnt that that was not the case. I found that many people don’t know.

“This event shattered the notion of the contented slave.

“We hear stories all the time of complicity and of it not really being that bad and all this mythology surrounding this holocaust.

“This is a person who felt his actions were prophetic — to rail and rally and rebel against a violent corrupt system. We hear very few stories about that.

“He is a hero but it is a very hard thing to wrap your head around because when you learn about the insurrection, most of the people that were killed were children. The sticking point in the play is why would he kill the innocent children?

“It is so tough because you think of the millions of African, black children who were killed or taken from their parents never to be seen again yet we still pay special attention and pay special homage to the white children.

“The very first museum of African-American slave history is still yet to be opened in Washington DC today and that is something that happened on American soil.

“This play is about starting this dialogue about this piece of American history that has never really been dealt with.”

Mr Vickers got his break thanks to the production’s playwright Nathan Allen Davis — a Juilliard alumni.

He approached Mr Vickers and offered him the opportunity to read the script and he accepted the challenge.

Mr Davis’s rewritten script was instantly accepted at NYTW much to Mr Vickers’s surprise.

“That never happens. When you are trying to get a project off the ground, you take it to theatre after theatre, you do readings after readings and we just did this one reading and they wanted to do it — it was like we captured lightning in a bottle.”