BY JOE MARVILLI
Early next week, Queens College will celebrate Black History Month by being transformed into “Freedom High.”
The college will hold a new, free production of “Freedom High,” with staged readings on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. in the Goldstein Theatre at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts. Not only will the performance have a multiracial cast of eight students from the school, but it will also feature six Equity actors, professionals that the students can learn from.
“They’re talking to each other, getting life advice. It’s a very different relationship than teacher-student. They’re learning just by example, just by having lunch together,” Susan Einhorn, a Queens College professor and the show’s director, said. “It’s like an internship but better. In this instance, they’re up there with them. They’re equal in a sense. There’s no safe place for the students to be watching from.”
Cassandra Price, Rina Dutta, Alexa Politis, Aaron Orlov, Tony Scheer, Gael Seraphin, George Pedraza and Steven Wody are the eight students who will join the Equity actors for a staged reading of the story by Adam Kraar.
“Freedom High” is about the impact of the deaths of civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and QC student Andrew Goodman in June 1964. Their deaths happened during Freedom Summer, an effort by hundreds of Black and white volunteers from all over the country to help African Americans register to vote in the segregated South. The three men were kidnapped and murdered outside Philadelphia, Miss. The case wound up drawing national attention and played a large role in the Civil Rights Movement. This story is told from the perspective of Jessica Kuplevsky, a white woman who signed up to register Black voters without understanding the dangers she might confront.
“The college has a long history connected to the Civil Rights Movement. And it’s the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer,” Einhorn said.
Given the anniversary, the show was revived for these two performances at Queens College, plus a third one on Monday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Theater for the New City in Manhattan. It originally premiered at Queens College in 2007, with subsequent shows at Queens Theatre in the Park.
With hundreds of high school and college students and faculty set to see the staged reading, Einhorn said she hopes “Freedom High” will let the audience reflect on how civil rights have grown in the past 50 years, as well as what still needs to be done.
“It’s a very moving story. When the play was first done and written, Obama was not president. The play was about just getting people registered,” she said. “For me, it heightens everything. It shows we’ve come a long way. On the other hand, the reality’s also of how we haven’t come a long way. There’s still racism, there’s still inequalities in many ways. It’s a very interesting time to re-examine the story.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.