Home U.S.Education Boston Revisits ‘Common Ground’ and Busing, Onstage

Boston Revisits ‘Common Ground’ and Busing, Onstage

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Boston — About half a century after a federal judge ordered a city school here to eliminate discrimination on the bus, 37 years after writer J. Anthony Lucas caused the turmoil in the Pulitzer Award-winning book “Common Ground”. Has passed. Ingenious Boston textual norms.

Today, the major non-profit theaters here claim that the shadows of the bass and the depiction of the “common ground” continue to shape the city’s reputation and racial relationships, filtered through the prisms of diverse groups of modern times. An artist performing a reconsideration of a book.

The play “Common Ground Revisited”, held at the Huntington Theater Company on June 10, began 11 years later as a thought experiment in a classroom at Emerson College, and like many stage projects, it is a coronavirus pandemic. The cast is made up of Boston actors, and the work overlays their observations on a book event that follows the bus crisis throughout the lives of three families.

“This book has a strong and vibrant heritage in Boston. Many people read it and have different opinions about it and what it means,” said Melia Bensussen and the playwright Kirsten, who developed the project.・ Greenidge states. The script was written by Greenidge and directed by Bensussen, Artistic Director of Hartford Stage.

“We are sticking to the’rethinking’part,” Greenwich said. “It’s not a straightforward adaptation of the book-that’s what the book is talking to us today.”

Surrounded by some alternative staging and perspectives, where two black and white students finally meet in high school, this play is not a deletion of the book, but another historical figure who has a story. Gently suggests that there are “there are multiple books” that are important to Boston history or, as one actor says during the play.

“Boston, for me, when it was sold: the Revolutionary War, maybe a little bus, and somehow we were here, with” The Departed, “” Town, “and” Good Will Hunting “scattered there. I am. “Omar Robinson from Baltimore, one of the cast’s actors who emigrated to Boston, said. “But our actual history is very rich, multicultural and black, and it’s overlooked very often. Maybe, hopefully, it’s not.”

Its history can sometimes feel very present and sometimes very distant. The play is performed in the south end of the city, and although described in the “common ground” as “the poorer and more sloppy part of the city,” it is now sophisticated and expensive. The city, which has long been headed by whites, now has the first Asian-American mayor, Michelle Wu. She was the first black man to take up the post and followed Kim Janny, the deputy mayor, who was on the bus for her separation purposes when she was a child.

The school district’s demographics have also changed significantly. Currently, 14.5% of Boston public school students are white, down from 57% in 1973. Also, the school system is about half the size of the previous one. Currently, there are 48,957 students. From 93,647. (By comparison, New York City has about 1 million public school students, of which 14.7% are white.)

Many of the 12 Huntington ensembles are too young to survive the bus crisis, but they are still very close. At that time, actress Karen McDonald’s stepfather taught at Hyde Park High School in the city. The father of a friend of actor Michael Kay was a state soldier assigned to Charlestown High School. There, buses were greeted by strikes, protests, and incendiary attacks on buildings.

Another member of the cast, Kadahj Bennett, said events at the time changed his own course of school education a generation later. “My dad was an immigrant from Jamaica and moved here to take a bus. He was taken by bus to West Roxbury High and had a miserable time,” he said. “So my parents decided I wasn’t going to public school.”

One striking aspect of performing a play about the recent history of the city where it took place: many in the audience have memories of the scenes depicted or know some characters. increase. One night, the actors say that in portraying the city and its struggle, patrons come to tell them what they were wrong or right and share their own memories.

Some have a personal connection to the history depicted.

Tito Jackson, a former Boston City Council member and current mayoral candidate who runs a cannabis company, has a particularly noteworthy connection. He was born a few years ago by his mother in Rachel E.’s book. Twymon became pregnant at the age of 12, and her mother insisted on giving up her child to adoption. Just last year, The Boston Globe reported that Jackson discovered that he was the child.

“I read this book four or five times when I was in college. I majored in history and sociology, so it was a big surprise to know that my birth was in the book. Yes, it was pretty emotional, “Jackson said in an interview. The book describes the pregnancy that led to Jackson’s birth as a result of sexual experiments and “fools,” but Twimon said the truth was raped, and Jackson believed that Huntington’s play revealed it. I am.

“Her life was indelibly imprinted and often assembled by this book and, frankly, the short profits it made for pregnancy and the birth of a child,” said Jackson, now 47. Told. “Then, the Emersons wondered in 1975 how one of the toughest mothers to date, a 12-year-old child, became pregnant.”

“I was very impressed with the play,” Jackson said of the play. “I feel that Rachel’s story, her point of view and truth, has finally been acknowledged.”

His mother, now 60, isn’t very enthusiastic and feels that the play doesn’t fully capture the horrors of the bass era. “You’re talking about a time when things were very busy and very unstable,” Twimon said. “The play was well communicated, and that wasn’t the way Boston was at the time.”

Another strong personal connection to the play is that of Theodore C. Landsmark, who now heads the Center for Urban Policy Research at Northeastern University. Although Landsmark has an outstanding career, he is forever known as a black man attacked by a white man waving the American flag at City Hall Plaza in Boston in 1976. The photo of Stanley Forman’s assault won the Pulitzer Prize and has become a symbol of racism and violence during the bus era.

“At first, I found it unpleasant to define everything in my life at that moment,” said 76-year-old Landsmark. “As time went on, I got used to it. I recognize that it’s an opportunity to talk about what I care about, especially the inequality that continues to exist in Boston, especially our profession.”

Landsmark said the “common ground” still has a lot of influence. “This book is assigned to high school and college classes of all kinds as a gateway to understanding Boston. I know that many people see Boston through a” common ground “prism. “I will.” “People who have never been to the city will immediately give either a book or a photo as a reason to hesitate to move from a racist place like Boston.”

Director Ben Sassen said he wasn’t sure if the play could live outside Boston because of his local focus, but local students were more of a civil rights movement than the Boston bus crisis. He said he was likely to study. She expected the play to encourage reconsideration about it. Landsmark said he could imagine excerpts from plays performed in different settings to stimulate discussions about the ongoing forms of separation.

Some actors wanted to be optimistic about the progress made, but given today’s national situation, I was wondering if that was realistic.

“I hope there is hope, but that’s not something I see every day. It’s not something I’ve encountered during nearly 20 years in the city,” Robinson said. rice field. “Reading this book and working on it, it shed a bright light on its past, and therefore its present, in many ways for me. Not only here in Boston, but this country has a lot of history. But I want hope. “

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