Four Little Girls, Birmginham, 1963
Halifax County Little Theatre is proud to introduce Kimberly LIpscomb, Amaya MItchell, Tkiera Stokes,and Ireanna Sydnor. These four lovely ladies, all new to the HCLT stage, are working hard to get ready for their lead roles in next weekend's opening of the powerful story Four Little Girls, Birmingham, 1963, a drama by Christina M. Ham. It's time to put all the elements together: lines, costumes, lighting, and a little stage magic! It's always exciting for us to highlight the amazing talent in our community, and this time we'll be bringing history to life with the story of four ordinary girls who were, as we all have learned, really quite extraordinary. They've been immortalized as the four victims of the 16th Street Church Bombing, but this play tells their stories from their own point of view. Come and get to know Addie, Carole, Denise, and Cynthia, and share their lives for a few moments. You'll leave with a new appreciation of life in this turbuory.
4 Little Girls”: Children’s Ensemble
by Greg Donner
Young people go off to school every day to learn the things they need to become productive citizens and make better lives for themselves and future generations. They are presented with books and other materials to help them gain the appreciation of our society and how we got to where we are today, both historically and culturally.
A group of local students has the opportunity for a different kind of lesson about our past and how we got to where we are today. They are participating in Halifax County Little Theatre’s production of “4 Little Girls: Birmingham 1963” and getting to create on stage one of the more tragic and pivotal event in the Civil Rights Movement.
The purpose of the play, by Cynthia Ham, is to take the event from the pages of a textbook and bring them alive through the lives of the individuals who lost their lives. The play derives its meaning not merely from an explosion but from reminding the audience of the real loss of the dreams and desires of four children who were killed by homegrown terrorists.
The production attempts to remember these girls by focusing on their daily existence and their relationships to one another and their families. The relationships of the girls to their families and community are shown through the ensemble of supporting players who assume numerous characters on both sides of the battle for equality. The young actors who fill these roles are getting to experience firsthand the feelings and motivations of the participants as no classroom setting can provide.
Director Becky Donner is quick to praise these young actors for their hard work and dedication. She notes, “At times, some members of the ensemble have to portray characters whose behavior is repugnant to most of today’s population. The discomfort of assuming that character is part of the acting experience though, and hopefully audience members are able to understand how mature of an acting job some of these young people are tackling.”
The youngest members of the ensemble come from elementary schools from around the area. Ma’kiya Palmer is the youngest of the cast and is a third grader at South Boston Elementary School. She says the most important thing learned so far is no matter what, “Keep smiling.” She is joined in her enthusiasm by newcomer Sydni Jennings, who echoes the sentiment of others that the main purpose is to have a fun acting experience.
Several youngsters have indicated that they just love being on stage. Mark Betts, Ma’Kiya Palmer, Andrew Hansen, and Courtland Thackston have all appeared in productions with HCLT and welcome the opportunity to return to the stage. Hansen is also the stage manager for the middle school’s Crossing of the Dan production.
These students are learning about the time period of the 60’s as well as having fun making new friends. Hansen says, “I didn’t know about all the bombings that happened,” and Betts commented that “It’s sad that these girls had to die that way.”
The most experienced of the cast is Ryan Crawford of Danville. At eleven years old, he has appeared in many plays in Danville, Martinsville, and the Prizery Summer Theatre Celebration, including the title role in the musical “Oliver” and standout performances in “Les Mis,” “The Addams Family,” and “Aladdin.” He says that he has had a real learning experience from this production, including a greater understanding of the history of the Civil Rights era and, more importantly, the feelings involved on both sides of the conflict.
Local middle school students form a major part of the ensemble who play white and African American characters embroiled in the controversy and conflict of the era. Hannah Bush says she has learned a lot and the show, “explains to people that things were not always easy.” Amelie Martin says she is inspired by the fact that, “these four little girls struggled in their lives,” just like kids nowadays.
Tamya Walker, Ainsley Gasperini, Kamya Minor, and Jada Carr all say that the play has taught them about history. The idea of truly standing in another person’s shoes can be a powerful learning experience. Some players have talked about how bad it can feel to be the “bad guy” in a situation. The experience will become very real to audience members as these actresses and actors assume their roles.
The ensemble is completed by Demetria Owen, Aaron Hendricks, and Nia Hayes. Demetria sums up the feeling of most cast members as she talks of her learning experience, “This play shows us that it wasn’t always easy, that everyone wasn’t always treated equally. “
Aaron commented, “The Civil Rights Movement was amazing. I believe telling the story really honors the four girls.” Nia sums up her experience by saying that she works to remember “Every time I try my best.”
Courtland Thackston, who recently read the book “The Help,” became interested in the Civil Rights Movement at that point and reminds everyone that “This isn’t just a play; it’s a history lesson.”
All of these young actors hope that on opening night there will be a crowd to share the lesson, not just historically but emotionally. The play is not always happy, but audience members will be presented with a real look at our past and hopefully come away with new insights into how far we have come in the past fifty years and how we can hold the memories of these girls as an inspiration of how much they sacrificed. It is a bittersweet lesson but one that should not be forgotten.
The show opens at The Prizery on Friday, February 19, and runs through Sunday, February 28, for a total of 7 performances. Tickets are available for $12 for adults and $8 for students and can be purchased online at www.prizery.com or by visiting the Prizery or calling 434-572-8339.
Memories from November's Production of
A Christmas Carol
The cast and crew of "A Christmas Carol" are grateful that so many people enjoyed this production!
Our 60th Anniversary Season!
Halifax County Little Theatre is 60 years strong! Since 1955, HCLT has been a vital part of our community, performing in elementary school gyms, the high school auditorium, various outdoor locations, restaurants, and for the past 10 years in the beautiful Chastain Theatre at The Prizery. For its 2015-2016 season, HCLT will showcase the Power of Theater with three productions that educate, enlighten, and entertain.
The November season opener will be a joint production with The Prizery in honor of The Prizery’s 10th Anniversary. HCLT and The Prizery will work together to bring back the first show produced in the theater: Alan Menken's musical version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This holiday classic is a must-see tradition with a large cast, haunting music, and a story that inspires. Director Chris Jones is excited to begin work; auditions are set for August 17 and 24 at 7:00 pm at The Prizery. Director Chris Jones is looking for actors and singers of all ages to fill this large cast of characters. Limited roles are available for children age 8 and older, including Tiny Tim, angels, and ensemble parts, and many roles are available for older children, teens and adults. Those auditioning are asked to be prepared to sing 16 bars of a song of their choice. Rehearsals begin
In February, Becky Donner will direct a powerful piece that showcases a turbulent moment in American history. Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963 brings into focus the realities of the Civil Rights movement by telling the stories of the four girls America mourned. As these four girls share their everyday lives, the audience will come to know these girls as young people with hopes and dreams and names. This moving drama hopes to bring the community together in a dialogue of peace and respect.
Finally, for HCLT's spring production, they are very excited to bring SHREK THE MUSICAL to the stage! Directed by Kasey Rising, this Broadway adaptation will bring great entertainment for the entire community. Adapted from the movie version, this play has all the fantastic characters you remember: Lord Farquad, Princess Fiona, Donkey, Pinocchio, The Gingerbread Man, and many more. Everyone loves this ogre! The music is joyous, and the jokes will keep the theatre full of laughter.
HCLT is proud to have been a part of Halifax County life for 60 years. They look forward to many more years of fostering a love for the arts, providing creative opportunities for young and old, and bringing great stories to life on stage. Community support is vital to these efforts in the form of volunteers, financial contributions, and attendance at productions. Season brochures will be available in just a few weeks. If you'd like to be added to the HCLT mailing list, send your information to
. Brochures will also be available at The Prizery, the Halifax County Visitor Center, and the public libraries.