Norristown Juneteenth event reflects on post emancipation America

Iron Age Theatre and the Norristown NAACP will celebrate the freeing of the slaves in a theatrically dynamic way. This immersive theatrical experience puts the audience in arms reach from the performers. (Image courtesy Iron Age Theatre)

Dramatic walking tour of Downtown Norristown explores the living history of African Americans after slavery.

On June 16th  Iron Age Theatre and the Norristown NAACP will celebrate the freeing of the slaves in a theatrically dynamic way. The fifth Norristown Juneteenth event will take guests on a walking tour of downtown Norristown with a series of stops where professional actors from the region will present scenes, monologues or historical documents accenting the theme of freedom and slavery.

The hour long tours begin at Five Saints Distilling at 129 E. Main Street in Norristown from 10:00 am to 3:40 pm with a tour leaving every 20 minutes. This free event will include a walking tour led by members of the Norristown NAACP.  Along the tour route, guides will highlight additional prominent locations of culture, history, and community that are not directly part of the tour. This teaming of professional actors, local businesses, community activists and historical locations make for an educational experience that touches both the performers and the audience. It is recommended that visitors reserve a time slot.

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This celebration includes performances which speak to the head and the heart. This immersive theatrical experience puts the audience in arms reach from the performers. Figures like Malcom X, Angela Davis, Ida B. Wells, and Sekou Sundiata will be brought to life. The production has met with audience and critical acclaim each year.

Juneteenth is the celebration of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas on June 19, 1865 and as of that reading, the last slaves in the nation had heard the document and were freed.

John Doyle, designer and director of the production, stated “Our actors are passionate and talented. The event has an ensemble feel with actors returning year after year to bring more of our shared history to life. I love working with them and their commitment to their craft and the material is thrilling.”

The cast includes Richard Bradford, Maurice Tucker, Walter De Shields, Niya Colbert, Carlo Campbell, and Nastassja Beset. Tucker appeared in the recent film, “IV Degrees”.  Bradford is one of the most active black actors in the region and recently won best actor at the Pittsburgh Fringe for his portrayal of Fred Hampton in “To My Unborn Child” which he wrote and is a member of both Theatre in the X and Curio Theatre. Niya Colbert is a member of Theatre in the X and has appeared in the recent Black Panther Project.

Ernie Hadrick of the Norristown NAACP, stated “This is a chance for the fulfillment of a dream. To bring people to our town and expose them to the exciting places could not be better for the town. Our rich history deserves to be accessed.”

Norristown businesses are keeping special hours on June 16th to provide post or pre tour refreshments. Diva’s Kitchen, Five Saints Distillery, Timshel Coffee and other establishments will offer places to reflect on the tour, celebrate emancipation or just get refreshments after the walk.

Ebenezer Methodist Church is providing a van to help the audiences return to the beginning of the tour route after the piece is complete.

The event is supported by a variety of local sponsors. The support from the community makes it possible to offer the event for free. Norristown NAACP, MONTCO.Today, The Elmwood Park Zoo and the Norristown Chamber of Commerce have all donated to assure black history is alive in Norristown.

The past years’ Juneteenth tours have focused on the idea of freedom that grew from emancipation and the suffering and rage that came from the slave experience. These emotionally potent presentations can be taken virtually at the Iron Age Theatre website.

Iron Age Theatre has been one of the most critically acclaimed companies in the area for over fifteen years. The Philadelphia City Paper called the company the area’s “most under appreciated professional theater”. Receiving Barrymore nominations for their productions, the company has been producing social justice theatre including last fall’s hit “To My Unborn Child,” “Citizen Paine,” “Waiting for the Ship from Delos,” and Jeffrey Hatcher’s “The Black Panther Project.”

For more information or to reserve a time on the tour, call 484-432-3878 or email

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