"Something Moving: A Meditation on Maynard," from playwright Pearl Cleage is one of three plays presented as a reading or workshop, Feb. 2-4 during “A First Look: The Ford’s Theatre Legacy Commissions” (Courtesy photo)
"Something Moving: A Meditation on Maynard," from playwright Pearl Cleage is one of three plays presented as a reading or workshop, Feb. 2-4 during “A First Look: The Ford’s Theatre Legacy Commissions” (Courtesy photo)

“Something Moving: A Meditation on Maynard” is a new play by author and playwright Pearl Cleage. A reading of Cleage’s play is a part of the free event, “A First Look: The Ford’s Theatre Legacy Commissions.” Cleage’s “Something Moving” is one of three plays that will be presented as a reading or in a workshop format and will be read on Feb. 2 and 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Cleage’s play takes a deep look at the significance of Maynard Jackson’s historic election, when he was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1974, becoming the first African American mayor of a major southern city. The play is timed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jackson’s election in 2024. The reading of the play allows director Seema Sueko to hear how the actors tell Cleage’s story.

“The reading is a chance to hear the words out loud,” Cleage said on a recent episode of the Washington Informer’s WIN-TV. “The thing with a play is that you can read it to yourself all day long. You need to have actors read it so you can hear how it really sounds outside of your own imagination.”

Maynard Jackson’s Impact on Southern History

Cleage got to know Jackson personally when she worked on two of his political campaigns. When he won the mayoral campaign in 1974, she became his chief public information officer overseeing media briefings and other communications activities for the Office of the Mayor. Realizing the 50th anniversary of Jackson’s landmark win was approaching, Cleage was moved to do something.

“One of the things I’m trying to do is give a little history,” said Cleage, an award-winning author and playwright. “To talk about how it felt to be in Atlanta during that wonderful transformative moment, we all knew we were making history.”

Cleage wants to ensure that folks who weren’t around 50 years ago, know the Black history facts about Jackson as Atlanta’s mayor. Atlantans, many who were going to be first-time voters, were eager to register and vote for Jackson. That election was a pivotal moment for Atlanta showing that the city was forward-thinking. A major statement was also being made about the look of new leadership in the south. “Something Moving” will bring together the excitement of Jackson’s role as mayor rooted in his love for Atlanta and its people.

“He was the hardest working person I had ever known,” Cleage said about Jackson. “He was dealing with high expectations from the Black community and nervousness from the white community. He was balancing any number of things.”

Ford’s Theatre Commissions Feature Black Playwrights

“A First Look: The Ford’s Theatre Legacy Commissions,” will also present readings and workshops from two additional playwrights. 

“Young and Just” by Dominic Taylor is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 3, at 7:30 p.m. Taylor’s commission explores the life and work of African American pioneer biologist Dr. Ernest Everett and that of his lead researcher Dr. Roger Arliner Young. 

Also, to be presented is “Blackbox” by Rickerby Hinds on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 2:30 p.m. Hinds’ commission explores the remarkable life of abolitionist Henry Box Brown, who was also a magician and an illusionist. In 1849, he arranged to mail himself in a wooden crate from Virginia to abolitionists in Philadelphia.

Though these readings and workshops are free, reservations must be made. To order free tickets, go to www.fords.org.

View the full interview with Pearl Cleage on WIN-TV.

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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