Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963 @ The Black Repertory Theatre of St Louis


One of the most horrific events of the Civil
Rights struggles of the 1950s and ’60s occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, September
15, 1963. Members of the Klu Klux Klan dynamited the
16th Street Baptist Church. In one of the church’s classrooms, four girls,
Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley, were waiting
for Sunday School to begin. All four were killed by the blast. Now their martyrdom has been celebrated again
by a play called Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963, written by Christina M. Ham. Jointly produced by The Black Rep and the
Center of Creative Arts at COCA, directed with clarity and imagination by Jacqueline
Thompson, with Tre’von Griffith conducting and accompanying hymns and gospel songs, songs
of the Civil Rights Movement, and even popular songs of the period, with percussive clapping
and stamping and movement guided by Jamie McKittrick, the play does take us to the bombing. But its focus is on the young women themselves,
their ordinary everyday lives and their dreams for the future, the extraordinary doctor,
artist, athlete, teacher they hoped to become. Lena Williams played Denise McNair, Kaitlin
Oliver was Cynthia Wesley, Gilayah McIntosh was Carole Robertson, and Nia RJ Hearon as
Addie Mae Collins. Another fifteen young women played their classmates
and friends and sometimes parents. Two adult white performers, Erin Feldman and
Bryce Miller, portrayed racists hurling insults and taunts at the blacks. Claudia Brownlee costumed the performers in
their Sunday best. Kendrick Lawson-Knight’s set used multiple
chairs to anchor the cast and made extensive us of projections of scenes of the period. Jayson Lawshee designed lights and Kareem
Deanes the sound. This was a fitting and enlightening tribute
to the four little girls who lost their live in Birmingham in 1963.

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