THE PARCHMAN HOUR: The story of the Freedom Riders of 1961 will be told in the play “The Parchman Hour.”

Archived Story

BCAC to present civil rights drama Thursday night

Published 9:44pm Monday, March 11, 2013

The Beaufort County Arts Council will present the civil rights drama “The Parchman Hour” on Thursday, March 14, at the Washington High School Performing Arts Center. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m.
Arts council executive director Joey Toler said the organization brought the production to Beaufort County because part of the arts council’s mission is to bring meaningful arts experiences to Beaufort County schools.
Beaufort County educators did a workshop on the drama last month. In addition to learning new teaching techniques, they were given ideas on how to prepare students for the serious subject matter and incorporate it into their lesson plan.
Students will be treated to a showcase Thursday.
“High School students from Beaufort, Hyde and Washington counties will see a 50-minute educational performance at one of two presentations during the day,” Toler said. “However, the evening performance will be the full two-act production that runs 90-100 minutes plus one intermission.”
The Mike Wiley Production is about the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders. In 1961, the original 13 riders boarded a bus in Washington, DC bound for New Orleans via Mississippi and Alabama.
“They barely made it out of Alabama alive,” Toler said.  “Over the course of the next three months, approximately 300 other riders took up the mantle and followed the path of those first brave few.”
Mobs brutally assaulted many of the riders. Others were arrested and, instead of posting bail, chose to serve sentences in what Toler called one of the most brutal prisons in the South, Parchman Farm.
Logistics to bring the production to Beaufort County took more than a year to plan. The North Carolina Arts Council provided funding.
“I saw an excerpt of the production at a showcase in November of 2011 and knew that it would be a powerful piece to bring to Beaufort County high school students,” Toler said. “After discussing the possibility with school representatives, BCAC applied and received a cARTwheels grant from the North Carolina Arts Council that is making everything happen.”
As a result, close to 1500 students from three counties will be able to experience the production. Toler said the addition of a public performance is a bonus.
“The Parchman Hour” was originally produced by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and The Lab Theatre of the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The production received its world Equity premiere as part of the professional season by Playmakers Repertory Company in October of 2011.
Admission to the production is free, and all are welcome. Doors open at 7 p.m.  The evening will be co-hosted by the NAACP Youth Council, said Chynna Bonner, BCAC board member and sponsor of the youth council.
For more information, call the arts council at 252.946.2504 or email beaufortcountyarts@embarqmail.com.

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