Left Hand Singing
- April 11, 2009
Directed by Terry Veal
Theatre presents "The Left Hand Singing," a drama about the disappearance of
three young civil rights workers during "Freedom Summer" of 1964. Barbara
Lebow's fascinating story takes a personal look at the triumphs and tragedies of
the American Civil Rights Movement.
The title of the play derives from a classical piece of music by Ravel written
for a pianist who lost the use of his right hand. In her northern college dorm
room, Linda, a Jewish girl from New York City, is studying that composition for
her Music 101 class. As the play progresses, Wes meets Linda and her roommate,
Honey, to study for their philosophy class, but more importantly, they are
making plans for the summer. While others might be planning a backpacking trek
across Europe, Wes, Linda and Honey want to make a difference in the world.
Specifically, there is a voter registration drive in Mississippi for
African-Americans that needs volunteers. Interwoven with their story is the
story of their parents who receive frightening calls from Mississippi in early
June that the three have disappeared.
Soon, the music
and play's title become a metaphor for the loss of their children. As the play
progresses, we see the college students locked in time in 1964, ever idealistic
and struggling with their identities. Their parents age and change over the
ensuing years and deal with their losses in different ways. We see some of the
parents become more politically active, while others bend under the weight of
their grief. All in all, through her vivid characters, playwright Barbara Lebow
personalizes the motivations of America’s civil rights activists and brings our
recent history to life.
In an interview
with The Atlanta Jewish Times, playwright Barbara Lebow said that she was
inspired by news coverage of the dedication of a civil rights memorial in
Montgomery, Alabama. The news story included interviews with parents who lost
their children during the violence of one of the marches.
"It struck a chord with me on many levels," she recalled. "I had just moved to
Atlanta with my two children, so I was a transplanted Northerner. I saw the
civil rights era from a different geographical perspective. But primarily, I was
emotionally drawn to the stories of these parents. And the play deals with how
these parents are affected by the idealism of their children."
Lebow also drew
on her own personal experiences for informing the play. "There’s a scene where
one of the characters talks about going with her daughter to hear Martin Luther
King preach in a synagogue. That really happened to my mother and me. It was a