Walking into the Callan Theatre at The Catholic University of America, one might be a little confused at what they are about to see. Two projector screens display an ominous white and black forest while rocks, a phone, and a chair are strewn about the floor, looking more like an art installation than anything else. However, once the lights go out and the tones of “We Shall Overcome” are heard, the tone is set for this beautifully done production.
Written by Catherine Filloux and commissioned by Marietta Hedges (who also stars), Selma ’65 tells the interconnected stories of Viola Liuzzo, a civil rights activist who drove from Detriot to participate in the Selma March, and Tommy Rowe, an FBI informant who infiltrated the inner circle of the Ku Klux Klan. On opposite sides of the civil rights movement, the result of these two fighting for what they believe in put them on a ultimately fatal trajectory.
Playing both of these demanding roles is the outstanding Marietta Hedges. With expert direction from Eleanor Holdridge, Hedges is captivating from the moment she wanders through the projected forest languidly smoking a cigarette. She transitions seamlessly from the reserved but passionate Viola to the cocky Tommy with a few simple costume pieces (as designed by Sutirat Larlarb).
With only Marietta to carry the action, it would be expected that the design elements must be in complete harmony in order to elevate the show to the highest caliber. For the most part, Selma accomplishes this hefty task. Kyle Grant’s lights beautifully and effectively mark the character changes while Jim Hedges’ sound clips evoke each of the various settings from the highway to Limbo. Unfortunately, there were some problems with the projections at my performance. Due to the crazy tech week that must have had with the papal visit, I know that this will be rectified before tonight’s performance.
With the ever-continuing battle for equal rights in this country, it is stories like the two in Selma ’65 that must be told if we wish to advance as a society. It is when passionate people stand up for what they believe in that change can occur. Selma ’65 is a wonderful reminder of how passion and fortitude can shape even the quietest of lives.
Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.
Selma ’65 plays through today Sunday, September 27, 2015 at The Catholic University’s Hartke Theatre – 3801 Harewood Road, N.E., in Washington, DC. Remaining performances are tonight, Friday, September 25th, and Saturday, September 26th, at 7:30 PM. There are matinees tomorrow and Sunday at 2 PM. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or online
There is a Post-Show Discussions After Each Performance:
Friday, September 25th Evening: Award-winning author and journalist Elizabeth Becker leads the discussion. Ms. Becker, has covered national and international affairs as a Washington correspondent at The New York Times, as the Senior Foreign Editor at National Public Radio, and as a Washington Post correspondent.
Saturday, September 26th Mmatinee: Renate Chancellor, expert on the Civil Rights Movement and CUA Assistant Professor, leads the discussion.
Saturday, September 26th Evening: William Barbieri, CUA Associate Professor of Ethics and Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program, leads the discussion.