A new play about African American life in 19th century Albany, written by two recent Siena alumni, made its premier on campus on June 17, with a special preview for the Siena community at Monday’s Juneteenth celebration.
Siena’s Creative Arts Department, in collaboration with Historic Cherry Hill and the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York, presented Tell Me That You’ll Not Forget Me, an original play by Megan Stuart ’22 and Emily Furlong ’21.
The show ran from June 17 until Sunday, June 26 in the Beaudoin Theatre in Foy Hall. Directed by Jean-Remy Monnay, the play painted a detailed portrait of local African American life through the lens of the Knapp and Van Rensselaer families at Cherry Hill. The play was written as part of Siena’s Living Museum Project and was crafted by the playwrights using the extensive letters, artifacts, and documents from the archive at Cherry Hill.
Monnay, of the Black Theatre Troupe, said, “This is about a piece of history that is important to tell the story of and showcase the people who made the path for Black people to get to the point they are now.”
On Monday, June 20, the Siena community gathered for a Juneteenth celebration at The Paddock. Furlong and Stuart spoke about the inspiration for their play, and Fortune Iheanetu ’25 performed a monologue from the play.
Furlong, who is now assistant director of digital marketing at Siena, said she had never written a play before she and Stuart penned Tell Me.
“We did a lot of research into the lives of the people who lived at Cherry Hill,” she said. “We read letters they had written so we could learn their distinct voices, and saw the actual outfits they wore back in the 19th century. I had no idea how much history happened here in Albany, and it was amazing to go into the characters’ heads and recreate what they thought and experienced.”
Stuart added that “it has been so surreal seeing all this research we did being brought to life by this incredible cast and crew! I hope all who see the play not only enjoy it but become immersed into the history as we have.”
The production was entirely designed and managed by Siena students through the CURCA Summer Scholars program. Arthur Paschoal Dimenstein '25 was stage manager for the production.
“This play is beautiful and emotional. It tells the real trajectory of an unusual family who lived in Albany during the 1880s, and anyone who is interested in local history and the social dynamics of race in the past will be fascinated by how the play adapts to its time while telling a compassionate story in a simple and touching way.”