Every year, a group of metro Atlanta students spend three weeks studying classic texts and working with a playwright to create a theatrical production.
Best-selling author and celebrated playwright Pearl Cleage is leading the project for the third year in a row. Students are studying the Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation to explore themes of freedom and examine instances of slavery in modern times, she said.
“It’s part of the National Civil War Project. It’s the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation,” Cleage said. “So several theatres all over the country are participating in the project collaboratively.”
Once a week, Alliance students communicate via Skype with a group of students in Boston who are essentially doing the same thing, she said.
“This is a national conversation and we’re really pleased we have the chance to connect kids thinking about the same topic,” Cleage said.
Collision participant and Mill Creek High School student Jaelen Tyner said the project has given him the chance to express himself in a way he could not in the past. “I’ve been able to see different viewpoints with everyone I come into contact with. That’s really encouraging,” he said.
Tyner said he is ready to “dive” into conversations of slavery. “We try to neglect it and act like [slavery] never happened. It needs to be remembered. It is our history and it is important,” he said.
The meaning of freedom, Cleage said, and modern-day slavery are also being discussed.
“There’s a big problem with Atlanta sexual slavery. … It happens here in Atlanta to a disturbing degree,” she said. “We start with history and try to expand the ideas and understand it’s not something that happened 150 years ago. It’s part of a continuing struggle around the world.” She said during the first two weeks the teens will discuss the issues and share opinions. They are required to write throughout the week, and she then shapes the writings into a script for the children to perform July 12 and 13, at the end of the three-week period.
Cleage said she hopes students finish the three weeks with a better sense of their connection to other people. “And a sense that whatever their feeling about truth is valid and deserves to be heard, and spoken out loud,” she said. “And to have respect for other people stating what they think it is to be true about the world.”
If you go:
o What: Collision Project
o Where: Hertz Stage at Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St., Midtown
o When: July 12 and 13
o Tickets: Free
o Information: www.alliancetheatre.org