Play: Three Mothers

playwright Ajene D. Washington

On a very busy  Saturday, my wife and I saw the new play Three Mothers at Capital Rep in Albany, NY. If you’re of a certain age, as I am, you may remember the names James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman and even recall their pictures in the newspapers.

It’s a piece of American history that is baked into my brain as much as the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham, AL in 1963 or any number of atrocities of the era.

But if you’re somewhat younger, you may not recall that on June 21, 1964, the three young men, were tortured and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan near Philadelphia, Mississippi. They had the audacity to help Black Americans to register and vote. Chaney was Black and local, from Meridian, MS, the others Jewish from the New York City metro area.

Three Mothers is inspired by a 1964 photo of their bereft mothers leaving the final funeral together. The play imagines the conversation afterward, “in Carolyn Goodman’s home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan when the three women forged an unbreakable bond and commitment to the Civil Rights Movement.”

Before the 90-minute production of Three Mothers with no intermission, Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill noted that she, playwright Ajene D. Washington, and director Petronia Paley continued to tweak the piece as late as opening night, the day before we saw it.

The cast, Judith Lightfoot Clark, Trisha Jeffrey, and Cheryl Stern, was excellent. Even though the production is heart-wrenching, it was also occasionally, and surprisingly funny, as the three women portrayed negotiate how to move forward.

Freedom Summer

I spoke briefly to local thespian and former news anchor Benita Zahn. She mentioned how she had moderated a pre-play talk with author Julie Kabat about “her new book ‘Love Letter from Pig,’ based on her brother’s personal journals, which describe 1964’s Freedom Summer and the Freedom Schools.” Unfortunately, my wife and I missed that.

But I’m seriously considering attending the pre-show conversation with  “Kabat, Andreesa Coleman, and Dorothy Singletary about their experience within the 1964 Freedom Schools in Mississippi” on Sunday, May 12 at 12:30 p.m.

Incidentally, I looked at the government page for Meridian, MS, and discovered that most of the current city council is Black. The mayor of Philadelphia, MS is black. That would have been unimaginable six decades ago.

He Was My Brother – Simon and Garfunkel. Andrew Goodman was a classmate of Paul and a friend of the duo. 

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