Cleage’s ‘Sit-In’ premieres as an animated stream

The Atlanta playwright’s new work is reimagined for the safety of audiences in these COVID-19  times

Sit In1 Web
Photo credit: The Alliance Theatre

If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember the sit-ins at lunch counters across the South during the early days of the Civil Rights move-ment. What started in North Carolina spread to Atlanta as college stu-dents from the Atlanta University Center here turned to civil disobedience to protest the segregation of “whites only” restaurants and diners in the city. But, if you’re young and have only learned about the Rev. Martin Lu-ther King, Jr. from history books, know that Rep. John Lewis was a good man but don’t understand his call for “good trouble,” and wonder why it is a historic feat that the Rev. Raphael Warnock won a seat in the U.S. Sen-ate, “SIT-IN,” the Alliance Theatre’s first-ever animated feature, will not only answer questions, but hopefully inspire you to seek social justice as you grow into an adult.

Written by bestselling Atlanta author, playwright, and civil rights activist, Pearl Cleage (“Blues for An Alabama Sky,” “Tell Me My Dream),” this newly-written and animated special for family audiences celebrates the power of youth to change history. Featuring a mixture of civil rights an-thems and new freedom songs composed specifically for the feature, “SIT-IN” follows three friends as they learn about the sit-ins of the civil rights era, and powerfully apply those lessons to issues they — and we all — face today.

Originally, the Alliance’s production of “SIT-IN” was conceived by Cleage as a play, inspired by the book “Sit-In: How Four Friends Stoop Up by Sit-ting Down” by Andrea Davis Pinkney with illustrations by Brian Pinkney. However, faced with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, producers at the theater had to decide whether to postpone the piece — or reimagine it for a COVID-19 environment.

In a press release, Christopher Moses, the Dan Reardon Director of Edu-cation & Associate Artistic Director for the Alliance says, “Our formidable team of artists fully embraced the latter,” noting it was especially im-portant to present “SIT-IN” now in the time of Black Lives Matter when students once again are protesting against social injustice and the narra-tive is as relevant now as when the sit-ins originally took place fifty years ago. Moses continues, “Here was a chance to invite families, students, and educators into an intergenerational dialogue about social justice, and to celebrate the courage of young people following their convictions. So, within the giant constraints of this pandemic, we dreamed of a new possi-bility. If we can’t gather in person, how else could we still tell this story?”

That question led the Alliance, with Cleage and director Mark Valdez, to collaborate with The Palette Group to create a 33-minute animated ver-sion of the play.

“None of us had ever done this before. So we were inviting new types of collaborators on board, working with filmmakers, illustrators, animators, and theater people,” Moses remembers, noting this new way of storytell-ing for the Alliance has been exciting for all involved.

“Pearl so beautifully reminds us in this play, it’s always been young people at the forefront of social change,” Moses notes. “And what a year to cel-ebrate young voices!”

The cast of SIT-IN includes Lena Castro, Ibraheed Farmer, Bella Fraker, River Kearse, Sharonne Lanier, Eden Luse, and L Warren Young. The creative team for “SIT-IN” includes Mark Valdez, director; Eugene H. Rus-sell, IV, composer & music director; Christopher Moses, line producer; Patrick Myers, visual dramaturg; Liz Campbell, stage manager; Matthew Adeboye and David Adeboye, filmmakers (The Palette Group); Cory An-chors, illustrator; Josh Same and Andrew Asher,animators; Dru Castro, recording engineer, and Jody Felman, casting. —CL—

“SIT-IN” is available for streaming now on ALLIANCE THEATRE ANY-WHERE at www.alliancetheatre.org/sitin. The feature is presented in col-laboration with the High Museum of Art’s exhibition, “Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Children’s Books” (Au-gust 15 – November 8, 2020), and represents the sixth collaboration with the High Museum of Art to present the work of a children’s book author and artist with both a museum exhibition and a stage production.

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