In the play "One Noble Journey – A Box Marked Freedom," character Henry "Box" Brown sees no alternative but to mail himself in a small crate to freedom.

The one-man performance by Roanoke native Mike Wiley highlights Virginia Tech’s celebration of National TRIO Day. The play tells the gripping stories of three slaves, with actor-playwright Wiley portraying more than 20 characters in the course of the drama. The play is 1 p.m. Feb. 27 in the Hancock Auditorium on the Virginia Tech campus. Admission is free.

National TRIO Day takes place around the country to promote a constellation of federal programs, including Upward Bound, that help economically challenged and first-generation students earn college degrees. Virginia Tech’s three TRIO programs are Upward Bound, Talent Search, and the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program.

Wiley, a participant in Upward Bound during his Roanoke College days, went on to earn a master of fine arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His career includes work with theater companies such as Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, and he travels throughout the country giving performances that put students into the thick of American history.

“We are ecstatic to have an artist of his caliber on campus,” said Thomas G. Wilson, director of Upward Bound/Talent Search at Virginia Tech. “His works are fascinating – they explore milestones of African-American history such as the Tuskegee airmen and Rosa Parks, and in ‘One Noble Journey’ he literally draws students up on stage to participate in the drama.”

Virginia Tech’s three TRIO programs, funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education, are part of Outreach and International Affairs.

The Upward Bound and Talent Search programs target students from families with parents who did not earn four-year degrees or who have low incomes. If students show potential for college, they can receive tutoring and other support as early as middle school. The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program draws students from the same pool – those who are traditionally underrepresented in universities – but the program encourages those students to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees.

To park near Hancock Hall: Free parking is available around the Drillfield. Parking is also available in Perry Street Lot 1, 3, 4, and 6 near Prices Fork Road. Find more parking information online or call (540) 231-3200.