This play is set in Montgomery, Alabama, a place that has so much historical significance, both as the Cradle of the Confederacy and the Cradle of Civil Rights. “Alabama Story” is a powerful play by Kenneth Jones and is inspired by real events in “the Deep South of the imagination”.
The incident springs from an innocent children’s story book published in 1958 (one may say it hides an apparent message promoting diversity). Author and illustrator Garth Williams (best known for his illustrations in Charlotte’s Web and Little House On the Prairie) released a book called The Rabbits’ Wedding, where a black rabbit marries a white rabbit. This gentle children’s book created a massive stir and ignited the passions of a State Senator who harbored strong segregationist agenda. Senator Higgins (Erik Gandolfi) issued a request for the book to be pulled out of state’s library shelves on the charge that it promoted “race-mixing”.
The story would end there, if it was not for a no-nonsense State Librarian, Emily Reed (Karen DeHart). She counters him saying that the book is an important vehicle for educating the impressionable youth and young minds must get all the information available so they can make their own decisions about people and circumstances. She in fact, ordered the book to be pulled out of shelves and out of general circulation and instead put it in reserve circulation so that it would always remain available.
This public feud unfolds against the backdrop of intimate story of childhood friends, Joshua (Bezachin Jifar), son of a house slave woman and Lily Whitfield (Maria Giere Marquis), daughter of a slave owner.
This is a simple yet powerful play that makes a bold statement about how a character may be tested at critical times and those who can withstand the test of character are the powerful figures that reshape the community; reshape a nation. Reed faced tremendous political pressure from the state politicians and at one time she said, “We have had difficulty with the book…. But we have not lost our integrity”. Mixed in with the politically charged focus of the play, there is some courtroom drama, childhood love, hint of passion, and a glimpse into how history may have unfolded in so many different ways, big and small, in private and intimate recesses of one’s mind and in public arena, during one of the most significant periods in America. Superb direction is by Lisa Mallette, who is in her 17th season at City Lights.
I declare, this is a not-to-miss play of this theater season and will be running at City Lights Theater in San Jose, until February 18, 2018. For tickets, check the website www.cltc.org .
“Alabama Story”, “The Rabbits’ Wedding”, Bezachin Jifar, Charlotte’s Web, City Lights, civil rights, Confederacy, Emily Reed, Erik Gandolfi, Garth Williams, Karen DeHart, Kenneth Jones, Lisa Mallette, Little House On the Prairie, Maria Giere Marquis, www.cltc.org
In the regional premiere of “RFK”, a riveting political drama unfolds that encompasses political life and decisions of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and focuses on struggles and challenges associated with social justice, civil rights, poverty, discrimination, and organized crime. As Robert Kennedy (David Arrow) recounts and reenacts events from his own journey into politics, and his grief and loss at losing his brother, the audience is guided to take a memory walk into the events and incidences that inspired people to become involved and make their voice count.
These committed individuals helped shape societal norms that would influence future generations. Incidences of Cesar Chavez’s championing of workers’ rights (http://bit.ly/1lyL2O4), polarization over Vietnam war (http://bit.ly/1qFIL28), and country’s mourning and grief over the assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, all shaped this country and are focused upon in the play. RFK deeply grieved over the loss of his brother, President John F. Kennedy and then translated his loss into a resolve to shape the future. He says, “tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live”.
Staging my Margaret Kayes is simple and effective. David Arrow as Robert F. Kennedy, gives an impeccable performance in this production, directed by The Stage’s super talented, Randall King. “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation”, says RFK. The heroic acts of many, during the 60s, left a powerful imprint that will forever guide and influence what was to come.
However, it is not just the heroism of those living in the “interesting times” that shapes history. It is also in the powerful retelling of history (kudos to playwright, Jack Holmes) that the present and future are further shaped and influenced. Arrow does a phenomenal recounting of the events that portrays RFK as a genuine human being, replete with his personal pet peeves and his biases, his humor, his deep grief at the loss of his brother, and his political ambivalence and ambitions.
You won’t want to miss this piece of history, marvelously re-created at www.thestage.org . Perhaps there might even be a lesson or two for our current struggles with race, income divide, poverty, equality and political polarization. This a not-to-miss play of this theater season, in the bay area and will be running at San Jose Stage till October 25, 2015.
“RFK”, Cesar Chavez, civil rights, David Arrow, discrimination, Dr. Martin Luther King, equality, http://bit.ly/1lyL2O4, http://bit.ly/1qFIL28, income divide, Jack Holmes, Johnson, organized crime, political polarization, poverty, President John F. Kennedy, President Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, social justice