By Bob Evans
Kansas City’s nationally recognized children’s theatre, The Coterie, in Crown Center set another high standard for theatre with the season opener,”We Shall Not Be Moved: The Student Sit-Ins of 1960,” that tells the story of college-students protesting the Old South standards of Whites Only at lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Four Black students peacefully sat at a lunch counter of Woolworth’s dime store in 1960 and began a march toward freedom and equality in a Southern town. They peacefully sat at a lunch counter, studied, and waited patiently to be served, a tradition previously afforded White customers. Their Gandhi-like peaceful protest continues, thereby defying the law of the land and beginning one of the United States’ youth campaigns to gain rights for those oppressed. The four Black college age students began a youth movement that swelled throughout the South as Blacks requested equal treatment for such simple comforts as being able to sit to eat in a dime store at the lunch counter.
Like many cities, the downtown area contained a selection of five and dime stores, all of which offered lunch service at a lunch counter. Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri similarly had such counter services available, but the protests never seemed to take such protests here. Katz Drugs, Woolworth’s, Kresge, McClellens, Grants, and others served the Metro in the eras before Walmart, and K-Marts populated the area.
The Greensboro incident encouraged young Black persons to follow the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and peacefully protest, not engage in discussion, not throw punches, not swear, no physical contact, etc. The goal was to make a silent statement. The Greensboro protest grew in size and continued for weeks and then months as it spread to other Southern communities. The student voices, though silent, were not squelched and the movement depicts the early days of Civil Rights for all.
“We Shall Not Be Moved” tells the general story of the beginning of the march toward acceptance in a racially-charged South. The story becomes interactive as it stops and asks the audience for impromptu questions and insights into how they see a character’s inner dialogue concerning his plans to join or resist the movement. Doing such gives the audience a chance to project ideas and thoughts to other audience members as the story continues.
A cast composed mostly of young actors make the play more realistic. Two actors seen throughout the KC metro stages, Granville O’Neal, Alisa Lynn, and Evan Lovelace are the most recognized thespians in this play. But, be aware, Roan Ricker steals the show as the Elvis-inspired, red-necked bully, and villain whose short scenes make the audience sit up and take note of him. He brings the anger that engulfed the demonstrators for this movement. Even though the anger and bigotry existed, “We Shall Not Be Moved” chose not to dwell on that aspect, but rather the positive results the eventually led to equal service at all lunch counters.
The Coterie’s season opener scores a big win for the theatre, now in it 39th year of productions. “We Shall Not Be Moved” opens the season with a docu/drama of the early days of the Civil Rights movement and gives the audience a chance to revisit the events that preceded the days of Dr. Martin Luther King’s larger demonstrations for equality in a bigoted America. Credit Artistic Director Jeff Church for making the right selections to always push The Coterie to new heights while presenting programming aimed at younger audiences. Good theater educates as well as entertains. Church continues to select challenging pieces with major talking points for students.
The cast of We Shall Not Be Moved: The Student Sit-Ins of 1960, as provided by The Coterie, features an ensemble of twelve actors, including Darrington Clark, Matthew J. Williamson, Deanna Mazdra, Alisa Lynn, Antonia Washington, Evan J. Lovelace, Khrystal L. Coppage, Robert E. Coppage III, Daniel Eugene Parman, Granvile T. O’Neal, Roan Ricker, and Tommy Waller. The artistic and production company includes Jeff Church (director), William J. Christie (production stage manager), Rafeal Toribio (set designer), Jarrett Bertoncin (lighting designer), Georgianna Londré Buchanan (costume designer), David Kiehl (sound designer), Scott Hobart (technical director), and Danielle Walsh (production assistant).
SHOW DATES, TIMES & TICKETS AS PROVIDED BY THE COTERIE:
The Coterie, named “One of the Five Best Theaters for Young Audiences in the U.S.” by TIME magazine, opens its 39th season with We Shall Not Be Moved: The Student Sit-Ins of 1960, September 19 – October 22, 2017, in The Coterie Theatre, located on level one of the Crown Center shops in Kansas City, MO. Press Night will be held on Friday, September 22, 2017, at 7 p.m.
Individual Tickets: Tickets are $11for youth under 18, students, and seniors age 60 and
older; and $15 for adults. Group Pricing: The Coterie offers groups of 20 or more a special preview rate of $5 per person the first week of the run, September 19-24, 2017. After preview week, groups pay only $5.50-$6 per person on weekdays and $6.50 per person on weekends (Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays).
Subscriptions: In lieu of season subscriptions, The Coterie offers the Spotlight Pass, which works like a season ticket without committing to a set schedule. Spotlight Pass holders pay $100 for a flexible pass that includes 10 tickets – a savings of 40% off individual ticket prices -that can be used for any show or combination of shows in the 2017/2018 Season.
All tickets and Spotlight Passes are on sale now and may be purchased by calling The Coterie’s box office at (816) 474-6552, dropping by the box office on level one of the Crown Center Shops, or by visiting The Coterie webite.
Tags: “We Will Not Be Moved”, The Coterie, Crown Center, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Children’ s Theater