Orphan Train, a new creatively devised theatre piece, runs April 6-10th at UWM’s Kenilworth Five-0-Eight. This production, created by Robin Mello and UWM Theatre students, captures an unsung piece of American history – the lived experience of Orphan Train riders and the people who sent them west.
Orphan Train follows the real stories of fourteen individuals whom rode the trains. Along the way children indentured to farmers, hotel owners, teachers and students at the Milwaukee Female Seminary (which became Downer College), and the maverick Congregationalist minister Charles Loring Brace, whose vision impacted hundreds of thousands of children with laudable and tragic results.
The cast of Orphan Train began creating the piece in February 2016 under the direction of Mello. They also had an opportunity to engage with MultiStory Theatre, from Barnstable, England whom helped bring an international connection to the work. The script is based on true stories taken from primary and secondary sources (diaries, photographs, interviews, newspaper reports, letters, and oral histories preserved in archives and dating from 1853 to1929).
Orphan Train is intended to explore the courage and perseverance demonstrated by the children who survived the Orphan Train journey west. It engages audiences in an evening of storytelling, song, improvisation, and characters who ultimately participated in creating Midwestern culture.