One of the best attributes of the District and neighboring cities continue to be the impressive number of local theater companies and the stellar productions they consistently bring to the stage.
However, if you need evidence to support this claim, we urge you to visit the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus [THEARC] in Southeast — the home for Restoration Stage, Inc.
Founded, directed and artistically led by a team of Black creatives committed to excellence and telling our stories, the company opens its 15th season with the world premiere of “Veils,” Nov. 7 — 10.
The new musical, penned by playwright Steven A. Butler Jr., who, along with the production’s director, Courtney Baker-Oliver, co-founded Restoration Stage, Inc. in 2005, brings the stories of unsung women from the Civil Rights and Black Lives movements to the stage.
The mostly-female cast tackles roles ranging from Sybrina Fulton and Mamie Till to Jacqueline Kennedy and Viola Liuzzo — women from recent history whose commitment to racial equality in America led to tragic outcomes — bereaved women, many of whom wear the “veils.”
Baker-Oliver talked with the Washington Informer, referring to several aspects of the play with unequivocal aplomb.
“Bringing a production, particularly a new play, to the stage is always a challenge,” he said. “But this has become a true labor of love. We know about the men from the Civil Rights Movement but what about the mothers, the wives or women like Viola Liuzzo who as a white woman didn’t need to join our fight but chose to be on the right side of history?”
One of Liuzzo’s daughters, Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe, has shared stories and artifacts with Baker-Oliver and Butler and will be in the District throughout the play’s run.
“The true stories of the people who shaped our country are national treasures that we can all learn from but we have to know them to benefit from them,” she said. “Like my family, I’m thrilled that my mother’s story is one being told in this production which brings history to life and to light.”
Executive Producer Sandra Evers-Manly said it’s wonderful to be able to witness a play that focuses on women’s contributions from the Civil Rights Movement.
“So many women had to stay strong due to the great losses in their lives and within the movement,” she said. “But they never let up and continued to fight for justice and equal rights. Often these voices and fighters get lost in history. But not this time.”
Baker-Oliver says he even found himself changed for the better as the company and cast worked to bring the play to life.
“Hopefully, by dramatizing the lives of these women and men, we can better educate and inform our audiences, especially Black youth. But even the cast and crew have found this to be a rare opportunity for us to learn so much more about our history and ourselves. We went to Birmingham and walked the streets, visiting the National Civil Rights Museum and other places that have become landmarks for or places of honor to African Americans who lost their lives in the struggle.”
“As a local, repertory company, we’re committed to building, growing and illustrating that the actors seen in our works, many of whom you will see again and again if you support us throughout this and other seasons, are just as competent and talented as those you’ll see on any stage around the District.”
For more information, go to www.restorationstage.com.