The date was September 3, 1957 when a group of nine black students who enrolled at (formerly all-white) Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, challenging the Brown v. Board of Education, landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. On September 4, 1957, the first day of classes at Central High, Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard to block the black students’ entry into the high school. Later that month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in federal troops to escort the Little Rock Nine into the school. History was made.
Fast forward to 2018, history calls it heroism. Yet, “The Little Rock Nine”still call it high school. The play, “Little Rock” tells the riveting true story of “The Little Rock Nine”, the first black students to attend their city’s formerly segregated Little Rock Central High School three years after the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. What began as their quest for a better education soon became a national crisis, igniting the passions of a divided country and sparking a historic fight for justice in the Jim Crow south. On the cusp of the Civil Rights movement, a changing world watched as these nine children from Arkansas battled for their rights, armed with only a notebook and pencil. At once harrowing and hopeful, “Little Rock” brings urgently to life the untold personal stories of challenge and resilience, conjuring memories of America not so long ago. From writer and director Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, this deeply moving play honors the bravery of these young heroes and asks audiences: “Would you have had the courage?”
“We find ourselves, 60 years after ‘The Crisis’ in Little Rock, still struggling as a nation with segregated schools, inadequate academic resources, systemic gaps in achievement and unsafe schools” shared Harvey Butler, producer. “The Little Rock Nine as teenagers were a catalyst that helped accelerate potential resolution of these issues in 1957-58. We hope this play will honor their contribution to American history and encourage a movement that recommits the nation to the pursuit of academic excellence for all — with deliberate policies and strategies that guarantee the right to a quality public education in an environment free of emotional, psychological and physical threat to our future leaders.”
The nine-member cast features: Rebekah Brockman (The Bridge of Spies), Justin Cunningham (The Winter’s Tale) Charlie Hudson III (A Raisin in the Sun), Peter O’Connor (The Flick), Ashley Robinson (A Clockwork Orange), Damian Jermaine Thompson (English Vinglish), Stephanie Umoh (Ragtime), Anita Welch (Avenue Q), and making her New York stage debut Shanice Williams (NBC’s “The Wiz Live”).
Yet that is not the only story being told with the debut of this captivating play. It’s also a story of resilience, persistence, growth and perseverance to tell a story that will hopefully ignite change even if it starts with perspective. “Little Rock” first received a developmental production as part of the 2011 New Works Festival at Theatre Works in Palo Alto, California. It’s history continued to receive a production in 2014 at Passage Theatre in Trenton, NJ where it won the 2015 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Ensemble. Today, Harvey Butler, Rebel Theatrical Management, LLC, the Steward Family in association with the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture present the New York premiere this summer.
Performances begin Friday, June 8, 2018 and continue for a limited run through September 8, 2018. The opening night Thursday, June 14, 2018 plans to commemorate these brave students who are now formidable adults. For more information go to www.littlerockplay.com