Phillis’s this time, Phillis’s health was beginning

     Phillis’s
volume of poetry was eventually published in 1773 by Archibald Bell.  At this time, Phillis’s health was beginning
to fail.  Phillis was allowed to travel
to England to aid in restoring her health, meet the patron of her book and
likely to see her book through the press.  While in England, she met various public figures,
including Benjamin Franklin and prominent antislavery lawyer, Grenville Sharp,
who likely encouraged Phillis to seek her own freedom from bondage (Wheatley,
2001).  Shortly after the publication, Phillis did
receive formal emancipation from slavery. 
She did return to Boston to care for the ailing Mrs. Wheatley, but her
emancipation was reflected in her writing and work as newly discovered agency.

     The final years of Phillis’s life were
marked by setbacks and tragedy.  In 1778,
Phillis married a free black man named John Peters, who struggled to maintain
steady employment and was in debt (Wheatley,
2001).  Phillis also struggled to find a publisher for
here second volume of poetry.  These
financial setbacks were compounded by the loss of all two or three children (there
are conflicting records on how many children she gave birth to) that she
birthed.  Phillis died, likely while her
husband John was in prison, followed, in the same day, by her infant child (Wheatley,
2001).

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Style and Convention

     This
solo performance piece will make use of Wheatley’s writings and letters,
literary and cultural critiques of Wheatley and the society in which she lived,
as well as biographical texts of Wheatley’s life in order to recollect her
encounters with significant people in her life, examining the many trials she
faced over her life and acknowledging the legacy of her work.  The play will balance an original narrative
of Wheatley’s life with her own poetry and writings. 

     A direct audience address style will be
utilized for The Trials of Phillis
Wheatley.  This style is used to
great effect in William Luce’s The Belle
of Amherst.  In this solo performance
piece, Luce recounts the life of Emily Dickinson and her interactions with
various family members, friends and professional acquaintances.  Another biographical solo performance play
called Ann, by Holland Taylor, also
offers inspiration for the style of play I plan to write.  Both of these plays use direct audience
address in a way that welcomes the audience to gain a deep understanding of who
these women were beyond their professional reputations.  These pieces also manage to find light and
humor, even in the darkest moments of their lives.