In 2001 the Old Whaling Church hosted a two-hour performance of Walter Robinson’s gospel musical Look What a Wonder. Mr. Robinson wrote the show during a fellowship at Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research in the 1990s. He toured the full length play throughout the Northeast in the 2000s.

Almost 20 years later Look What a Wonder returned to the Vineyard for a one-night show on Monday at the Performing Arts Center.

The show is a fictionalized account of historical figure Denmark Vessey’s triumphs and hardships as a slave in Charleston, S.C. Mr. Vessey co-founded the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1818, and led a slave revolt in 1822. History was brought to life on and offstage.

Performance was free thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation and residents of Chilmark and Vermont. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“The purpose of this evening is to develop an abbreviated version of this work that essentially captures the essence of the music and the plot line but is practical,” Mr. Robinson said. “Practical in the sense that it can be moved easily and at little cost.”

Mr. Robinson hopes to take a Look What a Wonder on the road touring schools, churches, community centers and synagogues around the country. While still in the refining process, Mr. Robinson has a premiere date in mind.

“We’ll learn from this. We’ll go back to the drawing table, but we already have a commitment from the Mayor of Newark to bring this into the Newark Public Schools in the fall,” he said.

To prepare for high school auditoriums in Newark, the show’s cast of seven actors gave an abbreviated staged reading while in costume. Voice-overs, interludes and sound effects assisted in giving context. Songs were punctuated with bits of dance and rhythm keeping.

The event was free thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation in combination with funding from a group of Chilmark and Vermont residents.

In the lobby of the Performing Arts Center, archaeologist Barry Clifford presented objects unearthed from the slave ship Whydah, found off the coast of Wellfleet, including shackles, stoves and jewelry.

Accessibility is Mr. Robinson’s goal.

“I personally feel that not everyone can get to the museum in Washington. Or can afford to pay 80 to 100 bucks to see something on Broadway. and it is everyone who needs an understanding of this history, particularly in times like this.”