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Saint Mary’s to host Civil Rights play

| Friday, February 9, 2018

Experience part of the past that affects the present through Mad River Theater Works’ latest production “Freedom Riders” at Saint Mary’s.

The new play, written by Jeff Hooper, features original music by Grammy winner Bob Lucas, and tells the moving tale of what some view as one of the most influential portions of the Civil Rights movement. The Freedom Riders were both black and white Americans from across the country who rode buses across state lines together despite the segregation that was still prominent in America.

Director of campus and community events Richard Baxter said he admires the cause of the Freedom Riders and their passion they used to advocate for Civil Rights.

“They rode these integrated buses into the south with the purpose of raising awareness, causing trouble, getting arrested, causing riots, violence,” Baxter said. “I mean, they didn’t set out to cause violence, but they certainly set out to raise awareness. … These individuals used all of that to raise awareness about an unjust system. They were not only courageous and convicted, but they really put themselves at peril.”

The play not only offers insight to the Civil Rights movement, but it also parallels issues Americans are facing today, Gloria Jenkins, director of student involvement and multicultural services, said in an e-mail.

“There are still injustices today and activists that are demonstrating and fighting for equal treatment for all,” she said.

The battle for justice is on-going, Baxter said, and seeing what activists in the past went through is one of the most striking parts of the play.

“It’s still a battle we’re fighting,” he said. “Not that we have segregated areas, but race is still contentious issue in our country. This is not simply taking a knee during a football game. This is walking into groups of people who have bats and who are bent on destroying individuals who have this belief that we should all live together in harmony. From that point of view, they wanted people to live apart.”

“Freedom Riders” displays an important history, but Baxter said the core issue addressed in the play is what makes it important.

“The history of it is fascinating, but the problem is always the same,” he said. “It’s how do you articulate your convictions, and what are you going to do for your convictions? These individuals … raised awareness in very in your face ways. I would say they were truly passionate about what they believed in to the point of sacrificing themselves.”

Tickets will be sold until the show begins at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Little Theatre. Baxter said he hopes students take the time to see the show.

“We have these opportunities that are made available to you,” he said. “Come and take advantage of it, and you’ll get a lot out of it. If you’re looking at sacrificing an hour on Saturday versus sacrificing your life to go change social norms in the south.”

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