Part of our continuing coverage of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene.
Avenue Q asked the question, “What Do You Do With A B.A. In English?”
Historian Anthony Cohen asks the audience a similar question, “What do you do with a history degree?” In his one-man Fringe show Patrick and Me he attempts to answer the question. Lost and unsure of what he should do after college, Cohen went on a cross-country journey to not only uncover a hidden part of history, but to perhaps uncover his own identity in the process.
Unfortunately we are left as lost as he is in this “monologue.” Cohen doesn’t have the drama and the passion of a Mike Daisey, in the end Cohen is an academic and his one-man show feels like an hour plus long lecture- complete with power point slides.
While it sounds like the Friday morning class you would skip back in college, there’s actually a compelling story that hints at something amazing.
A graduate of American University, Cohen worked on telling the story of the Underground Railroad in Montgomery County. His work would inspire him to go on two treks where he walked various routes of the railroad across the country. His work made him an expert in the history of slavery and he went on to consult various organizations and individuals including Oprah Winfrey.
Cohen, an African American with Jewish ancestors, stumbled upon the story of Patrick Sneed, a slave ancestor. Sneed escaped from slavery in 1849 and would go on to fight in the Civil War. What makes Sneed’s tale particularly interesting is the accounts that described Sneed as a white man with only “a little drop of Negro blood in him.” Cohen related with Sneed’s non-traditional background and worked to find out as much as he could about his long lost ancestor.
The basis of a really interesting story right? However it doesn’t matter how great the story is if it’s not presented right. Patrick and Me needs a major retooling that focuses on the central theme that’s most compelling: finding out who is Patrick Sneed AND who is Anthony Cohen.
Right now Cohen is working on a third journey across the country for a documentary that will share the same name. Perhaps through film we can better feel the true impact of this fascinating piece of history.
Patrick and Me
running through July 24th as part of the Capital Fringe Festival
Goethe Institut – Mainstage
812 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001