The Story Behind Syracuse Stage’s “Possessing Harriet”


Syracuse Stage will host the world premiere of a play inspired by Central New York history and written by an award-winning local playwright. 

“Possessing Harriet” tells the story of an enslaved young woman and her escape to freedom.

Executive Director Gregg Tripoli from the Onondaga Historical Association says “”I’ve always wanted to commission a play ever since I came to OHA because our stories from our history are so inherently theatrical and dramatic.”

Tripoli found a way to do just that through the association’s collaboration with Syracuse Stage and Associate Artistic Director Kyle Bass. Bass, who has a history of both directing and writing his own work was very interested in the opportunity.

“At first I listened to the story and I was thinking, ‘this is really interesting’” he said.  “I had not known about the story and I thought if I don’t know, there might be others who don’t know as well. I think this is what Gregg was thinking about, this story has to be out there.”

Bass says he was “very taken” by the events in Harriet’s life, which helped writing the story.

“One of the things that really interested me was the conversation that’s at the center of the play that I dramatized between Harriet Powell and Elizabeth Cady.  There really was no record of that conversation so that was room for me to invent which is what I do as a writer, so that was really interesting to me,” he added.

Syracuse Stage Artistic Director Bob Hupp said that putting the play up at Syracsue Stage was something that he knew had to be done. “Once I read the play, I knew it was a story we had to tell on our stage.”

“Possessing Harriet” premieres October 14 at Syracuse Stage and continues through November 4. To learn more and to purchase tickets visit 

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