THIS WEEKEND MARKS THE THIRD year that the local nonprofit AWOL (or All Walks Of Life) will present its original stage production, the Hip-Hop History Play.
Incorporating dramatic elements with urban music of the past few decades, this inspiring piece of educational theater features dozens of area kids and young adults interpreting the accomplishments of —and actually portraying— some of the more notable individuals who helped build what’s known as the Hip-Hop Nation.
The show again takes place at the Lucas Theatre. However, much has changed.
“The play has evolved somewhat,” explains DaVena Jordan, AWOL’s Executive Director. “The first year we told the history of hip-hop culture and music, but now we teach history through hip-hop. This year will focus on bridging the widening gap between the Civil Rights Generation and the Hip-Hop Generation.”
With a cast ranging in age from five to 50, and characterizations of such iconic figures as Malcolm X, Talib Kweli and Bob Marley, the show should hold great appeal for many age groups.
Although the play was written collectively by staff members and past participants, Jordan says a “large majority” of the story line and the basic concept was handled by writer/director Clinton Powell (of the Spitfire Poetry Group), who has helmed the production in past years.
She adds that Powell expects the actors to do their own homework when it comes to developing interpretations of real-life performers — and that affording them that freedom and responsibility works well.
“The kids are so great at finding their little niche. We don’t give them much direction other than sending them off to search YouTube for old footage. Once the kids own their characters, they work really hard to seem like the real thing.”
Forcing these novices to rely on themselves lies at the very heart of what her organization is all about. Explains Jordan: “AWOL is much more that just a presenter of the arts. We are a youth development program supported by the City of Savannah, United Way and the Children and Youth Coordinating Council.”
“This play is supported in part by a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts through the Grassroots Arts Project. These kids start from ground zero, with many having no theater experience at all. They are taught the basics, then a little conflict resolution and anger management. When all that’s done, we start practicing the show.”
In past years, earlier versions have drawn sold-out crowds made up of area schoolchildren, proud relatives and friends, and —most importantly— complete strangers. Jordan finds that most heartening.
“Looking back at video footage from last year’s event, we were so surprised at the number of folks we’d never seen or met, who simply came out of curiosity.”
She stresses the importance of supporting young, local talent.
“The play really gives Savannah’s kids a time to shine. In my opinion, we’re often too busy trying to bring acts to town when we have a wealth of talent right here.”
Jordan also has a message for anyone on the fence as far as attending the show.
“It should not matter one bit if you know nothing at all about hip hop or care little for its culture. What really matters is seeing Savannah’s young people having fun and doing something positive. An investment in our young people is an investment in our future as a community.”
Read a complete transcript of this interview at www.connectsavannah.com.
7 pm, Fri., Feb. 22
Lucas Theatre Cost: $15 ($10 for children) at www.lucastheatre.org or call 525-5050
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