‘Rise Up’ is a 60 minute production by Theatre Centre about the freedom riders in the 60s. It is a show designed to travel around the country, through schools and other educational establishments, to educate youngsters on social and political matters.
This particular production was written to combat issues of racism and the work that was needed to rectify the matter. The freedom riders were a interracial group of volunteers who chose to ride south on buses through klan territory. They would place black people at the front of the buses, and just generally disrupt the social norm. These people were met with violent attacks, yet they would not fight back. Many died from the racist attacks but they aided the worlds fight against racism. Their passive way of protesting allowed them to remain the innocent party and therefore paint the racists in a bloody and inhuman light. The show tells the tale of these people, and comments on famous names, for example Martin Luther King, and their involvement in that period.
The way that this story was told through the production was effective. I liked the idea that the play was performed by 4 actors, 3 black and 1 white. The actors took on over 40 different roles all together, they changed into these characters through accents, posture and sometimes small props such as a hat or a cigar. All four of the actors played characters of all races. The black people had multiple white rolls and vice versa. I think that this was interesting and a very good thing within the show. It helps, again, to get the idea that we are all the same across even more.
The story did not remain in one era, it was brought back to modern times throughout. The character ‘CJ’ was considered the class clown. This character was the actor, he kept forgetting his lines and getting dates confused, being generally funny. It worked well as it allowed them to reiterate key facts and suggest that even now there is a lot of work to combat racism fully.
The show was designed in a very simplistic way, there were 4 aluminium stalls, 3 screens and a floor mat. The screens were also aluminium and were modelled on the design of the sides of the buses in that era. They were slic and of a good quality, this is important as there were not many elements to the design.
The stalls were interesting as they allowed the director to add levels to the performance. It is important to consider the fact that this production was designed to fit into school halls, therefore the audience would always be sat flatly. By adding the stalls it meant that even people in the last rows would be able to appreciate it. The stalls were of two hights, 2 were half the size of the other 2. This allowed the actors to stand on them, and use them as almost stairs. Another interesting idea was to flip them over and stand in the centre, they then became their prison cells. I really liked this element and consider it the most successful part.
The show was ended with a discussion about discrimination, both racial and gender, and body image etc. I think that this is an interesting ending to a play. It means that the students can fully engage and make sure that they fully understand anything covered. It also gave people a chance to speak out about other topics in a friendly and non judgemental environment.
The show definitely achieved what it set out to do. The story was engaging and informative. Their was a sense of comedy throughout, yet it still showed the gruesome truth of racism in the 60s.
Picture above shows the behind of the metal screens. Each picture is a real mug shot of the real people who were freedom riders in the 60s.