Several audience members wiped away tears during the performance of "The Integration of Tuskegee High School" at the Auburn Theatre. Receiving a standing ovation from a sold out crowd, this performance re-enacted the events that occurred during the 1963 integration of Tuskegee High School, the first public high school to integrate in Alabama.
Although rehearsals for this performance have been daily since Feb. 22, this performance has been two years in the making. Written and directed by Dr. Tessa Carr, this collage of different interviews from those who experienced the events firsthand gives new life and perspective to the events that occurred.
Several audience members were students at Tuskegee High School that year or were one of the 13 to be integrated. Anthony Lee was among the 13 and shared his feedback with the cast after the performance.
"These are some very talented young people who are learning a very valuable lesson and I hope that they will take this with them wherever they go," Lee said. "And that will lessen a need for things we went through 50 years ago."
Lee shared with the audience that he was the first African-American student at Auburn University to attend for a full four years.
Fred Gray, civil rights lawyer, said he thought it was an excellent performance by the actors and that the writer of the play did a good job trying to recapture the people's actions and emotions.
"This has taken our society, as I said in my remarks, 50 years to get to a point where we can even sit down and talk about it," Gray said.
Rebecca Sickles, who was portrayed in the performance, said her heart was pounding from the emotions generated by the performance.
"When you grow up and live through this and get away, you kind of think it was just your experience and it was something I wanted to put away because it was hurtful," Sickles said. "But when it all started coming back out again, it's been a healing process, and so I want to thank everybody who was a part of that."
Gray said he hopes audiences will come away from the performance with the understanding that former Gov. George Wallace interfered with "what would have been an orderly procedure." Gray said as the result of Lee v. Macon County Board of Education, "we were able to solve a problem of getting rid of segregation in all of our educational system."
Dr. Mark Wilson said he was left speechless after the performance. According to Wilson, the last performance will be live streamed so "anyone, anywhere" can watch online.
Gray said he thinks the most important thing our society needs to realize is that the struggle for equal justice continues.
"We still have a lot of problems," Gray said. "We need to work on them and not take 50 more years to solve them."
Performances will continue from now until April 24. See the Department of Theatre's website for more details.