Created to introduce young students to the words and ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work in the civil rights movement, We Shall Overcome uses story and song to celebrate the holiday honoring this great man. The audience becomes the choir class of eccentric instructor, Mrs. Kadiddlehopper. They are rehearsing for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Assembly, an ambitious performance combining the music of the holiday with some of the words of Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. In class, along with the audience, are best friends Lillie and Owen (played by adult actors). From the beginning it is clear that they are having a disagreement and we discover that these two young students are struggling with their own unexpected racial tension when it is revealed that Owen’s ancestors were slave-owners while Lillie’s ancestors were slaves. Each has an emotional response to this information from the past and Mrs. K, along with the words of such songs as We Shall Overcome, The Drinking Gourd and Down by the Riverside, helps the students to heal this rift in the present using stories and lessons learned in the past. As Lillie and Owen begin to understand the dream of the civil rights movement and the ideas behind Dr. King’s work, they use these political and historical ideas to address the personal problem between them and heal their own divide just in time to finish rehearsal and rush off to science class!
The interactivity in We Shall Overcome runs the gamut from full audience participation (as students are taught the words to the title song), to group rhythm creation during Follow the Drinking Gourd; to individual students reading excerpts from Dr. King’s speech (they are assisted by the actors and prepped prior to the performance). Volunteers also “sit-in” at a lunch counter and walk through different climates during the bus boycott.
We Shall Overcome runs approximately 45 minutes.
Dia de los Muertos - Cuentos de mi Familia
We Shall Overcome
The Velveteen Rabbit
The Legends of King Arthur
Ferdinand the Bull
Three Tales by Hans Christian Andersen