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Notre Dame Theater Production Kicks Off TRC's Tenth Anniversary Celebration

There was a time in the History of America when the color of your face decided where you could go, what you could do and how you could live your life… From Walk, Don’t Ride… by Peter Manos

Walk, Don’t Ride: The Fight for Freedom in America, is an original drama written and directed by Peter Manos, a visiting instructor of humanities at Notre Dame College. Reaching back more than forty years, the production recalls seminal moments in our nation’s history when heroes endured brutality and injustice for the radical idea that race does not determine the worth of a human being.

The play is presented by the Tolerance Resource Center in association with Notre Dame Masquers and the Notre Dame Vocal Ensemble under the direction of assistant professor of music and theology Sr. Karita Ivancic ‘71.

Walk, Don’t Ride is set during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a pivotal incident in igniting the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. It also portrays the Nashville Lunch Counter sit-ins and the Greyhound Freedom Riders. According to Manos, “We wanted to use our forces of theater and song to collectively tell the story of Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who fought to integrate the public buses of the city through a boycott.”

The performance will also feature the musical talents of Dr. Anthony LaVerde, professor of biology, guitarist and founding member of the Bleeding Heart Blues Band. Eris Dyson, a junior communication major and member of the College’s African American Culture Society, collaborated with Manos to involve as many students as possible with the production.

The play provides a unique perspective on iconic civil rights figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. “We need to remember that Dr. King was only 26 years old at the time of the bus boycott,” said Manos. “Sometimes it is hard to remember that this great leader was actually just a young man, not much older than many of our students, when he was thrust into this fight.”

It also recalls a time when the religious community united people for a cause, furthering human rights. “The Church was on the side of change and being a church leader meant standing against this oppression,” said Manos.

Endeavoring for authenticity, Manos utilizes eyewitness accounts, speeches and source material from outstanding works such as Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters and the PBS series Eyes on the Prize. However there is one line he does not cross. “At no time do we present a racist character on the stage. I wanted to portray the voices of hope and change. This is their story.”

Walk, Don’t Ride opens on Friday, October 19 with an 8:00 p.m. performance in Notre Dame College’s Performing Arts Center. A reprise of Walk, Don’t Ride will be performed on January 22, 2008 also in the Performing Arts Center. Admission to both performances is free.

Karen Zoller is the director of the Clara Fritzsche Library, home of the Tolerance Resource Center.