News Release

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Miami University
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Miami presents the world premiere of "Down in Mississippi"

09/16/2009

Cast members of "Down in Mississippi" (left to right) Joclene Harper, sophomore theatre major from Dayton; Aaron Epstein, junior theatre major from West Chester; John Nyrere, professional actor from Chicago; Sha Toree Crutchfield, sophomore theatre major from Cleveland; and Kaleigh Brooke Dillingham, sophomore theatre major from West Chester.
"Down in Mississippi: A Gospel Play with Music" explores the real-life events of Freedom Summer 1964, when more than 1,000 volunteers gathered for training in Oxford at Western College for Women (now a part of Miami University's campus) before traveling to Mississippi to register African American voters and organize freedom schools.

This new play delves into the heart of the Civil Rights Movement as three college students journey to the dangerous world of 1964 Mississippi. Through their struggles, they learn they have to change themselves in order to change the world.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Oct. 1-3 and Oct. 8-10 and at 3 p.m. Oct. 4. Tickets are available at Miami’s Box Office at Shriver Center, by calling 529-3200 or going online at www.tickets.muohio.edu.

Group discounts and curricular discounts are available. Tickets are $7 for students/youth, $13 for senior citizens and $14 for adults.

Miami’s department of theatre and the Center for American and World Cultures commissioned the play from nationally recognized playwright Carlyle Brown, a writer/performer and artistic director of Carlyle Brown and Company in Minneapolis. A 2008 Guggenheim Fellow, Brown has received numerous commissions including those from The Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Actors Theatre of Louisville and Houston Grand.

Presented by the department of theatre and the Performing Arts Series, this world premiere production features freedom songs with musical direction by Tammy L. Kernodle, associate professor of music at Miami. The cast includes Miami students, Oxford community members and professional actors. Audience members are encouraged to come thirty minutes before each performance to explore the Civil Rights Movement in an interactive pre-show exhibit created by Miami students. Attendees can register to vote, sing a freedom song, learn about local history and the making of the 1964 movement.

The play is a part of Miami University’s “Finding Freedom Summer in Oxford, Ohio” project, an ongoing interdisciplinary program which recently won funding and support from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) for interpreting the site of Western College campus with future programs about this history.

“Our connection to the site of Western College helps us create a living memorial to the Mississippi Summer Project, allowing us to walk in the shoes of those from 1964,” said Ann Elizabeth Armstrong, director of “Down in Mississippi.” “By continuing different kinds of cultural events, we hope to bring this history to life and speak effectively to a wide community.”

Armstrong also is co-director of the NEH project with Mary Jane Berman, director of Miami’s Center for American and World Cultures (CAWC) and Nishani Frazier, assistant professor of history at Miami.

“Down in Mississippi” has sponsorship from Miami’s Bicentennial Celebration, the CAWC, the Western College Alumnae Association and the Institute for Learning in Retirement.

Other Freedom Summer programs include:

The Freedom Summer National Conference and Reunion, Oct. 9-11, which will feature participants who formerly served as Freedom Summer activists, area residents, Miami and local high school students and educators from other universities. The conference will explore the broader meaning of Freedom Summer within the context of a global phenomenon of citizenship, participation and activism. For a complete schedule of events and registration information, see http://www.muohio.edu/freedomsummer2009

Walk with Me: Freedom Summer Interactive History Tour, Sept. 4-Oct. 31, a 45-minute tour on the Western College campus drawing upon the oral histories, letters and diaries of 1964 Freedom Summer student activists. Tours start in front of Clawson Hall on Western Drive. They can be scheduled by contacting Karen Gotter at 513-529- 5819 or freedomsummerwalk@muohio.edu. Additionally, drop in tours (no reservation required) will take place every Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. and Friday at 3 p.m. from Sept. 4 – Oct. 16. These tours are free and open to the public.

“Finding Freedom Summer: A Retrospective,” Oct. 1-31, exhibition of images and materials from the Mississippi Freedom Summer Collection on Miami’s Oxford campus at the Western College Memorial Archives.

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