TheatreWorks is in the midst of their annual New Works Festival, where this prestigious regional theatre company presents staged readings and developmental productions of plays in progress. One major success to come out of the New Works Festival is Memphis, which went on to win the 2010 Tony award for Best Musical.
The New Works Festival started Sunday evening and I was there. The play in development is Little Rock. It takes you back to 1957, when nine teenagers were the first African-Americans to integrate Little Rock Central High School. The story is told from the teenagers' viewpoints. The teens are played by middle-aged actors, who both tell the story from their adult perspective and show the story as the teens themselves.
I knew about the "Little Rock Nine", but not like this. These teens and their families went through a horrific time. This play took me there, made me mad at my country, but then proud of how far we've come. The play showed what heroes the Little Rock Nine were.
But even better than the play, two of the Little Rock Nine, sat on the stage with the playwright Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, and took questions from the audience. They are inspiring. They are heroes. They are history sitting in Lucie Stern Theatre.
There might be a few seats left to the few remaining performances of Little Rock and the post-show discussions that will include other members of the Little Rock Nine. Even in Cupertino, where the African-American population is close to nil, this play is important. We've got a population of diverse cultures and ethnicities right here that we accept and enjoy everyday. This acceptance of diversity must at least in part be due to those nine teenagers.
If you can't see this developmental production, don't despair. The show is bound to make it to Broadway, and you'll catch it on its national tour, when it should be required viewing for all of us.