Andrew is a first time writer/filmmaker with ‘Masquerade.’ He is currently an associate producer on the Broadway-bound musical ‘Home Street Home’ and co-director of Have A Sleepover Productions with his partner, Jeff Marx. Andrew studied Theater and English at George Mason University and has held positions at Fox 21 and WestEnd Films at the Cannes Film Festival.
I discovered the story of the slave couple William and Ellen Craft during my junior year of high school. I sat back, agape, at their unbelievable story. In 1848, in order to escape, Ellen, who was fair-skinned, passed as a sickly white man, while William masqueraded as her slave companion.
They lived in Boston until their former masters dispatched slave catchers to bring them back, an action legalized nationally in the US Congress in 1850. When it became too dangerous they were secretly stowed on a boat for safe passage to London, where they lived for over 10 years and started a family.
The Crafts exemplify bold resistance and courage during very dark, uncertain times. They also illustrate the triumph of love and collaboration in the face of a society that did everything in it’s power to dehumanize and suppress them. They are an example to us all, not to mention one hell of a story.
For twelve years I carried them with me while processing my own identity and my own personal “disguising” as I came to terms with coming out as a gay man. While I spent years struggling with myself, I often thought about what gay men and women must have gone through during William and Ellen’s time. Where were their stories?
Connecting the Craft story (Sam and Ninny) with a same-sex experience (George) during this era is a result of my own fiction. Juxtaposing these stories seemed urgent in today’s world. Slavery still exists, as does the persecution of gay people. Trump’s America has made the times now uncertain beyond measure. Passing, too, is a topic rarely touched on. It’s all part of America’s buried history. History which, even through the medium of the short film, I challenged to examine.