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SCHOOL OF THEATRE, DANCE, AND PERFORMANCE STUDIES The Me Nobody Knows October 10 17, 2014 The Me Nobody Knows Study Guide Prepared by Tricia Homer Music by Gary William Friedman Lyrics by Will Holt Adapted
SCHOOL OF THEATRE, DANCE, AND PERFORMANCE STUDIES The Me Nobody Knows October 10 17, 2014 The Me Nobody Knows Study Guide Prepared by Tricia Homer Music by Gary William Friedman Lyrics by Will Holt Adapted by Robert Livingston and Herb Schapiro Based on the book The Me Nobody Knows, edited by Stephen M. Joseph Additional lyrics by Herb Schapiro Arrangements and orchestration by Gary William Friedman Alvin Mayes and Scot Reese, co-directors L. Richmond Sparks, music director The Me Nobody Knows is Tony-nominated and OBIE Award-winning. The Me Nobody Knows is presented through special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC. Funded in part by a generous gift from James and Sally Bersbach. The K-12 School Partner Program provides school groups with a unique package of opportunities and resources designed to engage, educate and entertain. The K-12 School Partner Program is sponsored by a generous gift from the Anne and Ronald Abramson Family Foundation. More at: Table of Contents About the Play Co-Directors Note/Fable 1 2 Timeline of Historical Events in American Politics and Civil Rights Selected Themes within the Play Vocabulary Suggestion for Activities and Discussion Questions Recommended Reading and Viewing List Information for the Teacher I loved it. I loved its understanding and compassion, and I loved its pain and yet also its unsentimental determination for hope. Clive Barnes, theatre critic for the New York Times [Offers] an insight into ghetto youth. It is raw, tough, and yet truly compassionate...the effect could be depressing but it isn t. The sheer tenacity of the human spirit against oppression, against rats, against drugs, against the numbing, almost soothing grind of poverty, is glorious and triumphant. Clive Barnes The Me was energetic, tuneful, talent-filled and thought-provoking. Steven Suskin 1 About the Play By Cindy King The production you are about to see, The Me Nobody Knows, has an interesting history. In actuality, the piece did not originate in the theatre, but rather it is based on a book titled The Me Nobody Knows: Children s Voices From the Ghetto (1969). Moreover, The Me Nobody Knows was not penned by a single individual, nor do the prose and lyrics represent the joint efforts of a small cadre of professional artists. On the contrary, The Me Nobody Knows animates the words, feelings and experiences of 200 students from Harlem, New York. Under the guidance and tutelage of several teachers, these students (ranging from the ages of 12 to 18) were encouraged to write down their deepest thoughts and concerns. The students teachers were well aware that many of their students were struggling with some of the worst consequences of urban unrest. Poor housing and nutrition, inadequate healthcare, deficient educational resources, dysfunctional families, drugs, crimes and violent altercations were among these debilitating circumstances. The teachers also knew that without some sort creative or productive outlet their students were at risk to become completely victimized by these issues. Without intervention these students were ripe to become statistics in a crippling cycle of poverty and despair. Stephen M. Joseph, one of the teachers and the editor of The Me Nobody Knows, created the book by asking his students to respond to questions that addressed four dimensions of their identity. He asked them to describe how [they] see [themselves], [their] neighborhoods, the world outside, and the things [they] can t see or touch. Joseph understood that our personal relationships (our families, friends, teachers, peers, etc.) help mold us with laughter, hugs and love and that the lack of this support could be equally impactful. He recognized that our communities and their institutions should be empowered to provide useful resources; that schools should provide skills and training for career building and personal growth. Joseph s questions were also guided by the belief that our dreams hold our unlimited desires and give us vision and purpose. Lastly, he wanted his students to think about the forces beyond our tangible reach he wanted them to have a sense of faith and to remind them that there is more in the world than the single self. Joseph and his fellow teachers believed that the exploration of these personal dimensions could help unlock the innermost thoughts of their students, thereby helping them to discard their mental obstacles while also helping them to unleash their hope and full potential. Inspired by the heartfelt prose of the Harlem students, adaptor/director Robert Livingston, along with Gary William Friedman (music), Will Holt (lyrics) and Herb Schapiro (lyrics) decided to transform Joseph s edited volume to a staged musical that debuted off- Broadway in This highly acclaimed production moved on to Broadway in 1971, earning five Tony nominations and two Drama Desk Awards. Like the original volume of prose, the awardwinning musical, The Me Nobody Knows, features individual characters who search for their voice using Joseph s four dimensions as their guide. The characters use their personal narratives to express their confusion and anger, as well as to realize their hopes. They fight back and attempt to stand tall against adversity. Despite the odds against them, the characters courageously choose to define themselves and not let their surroundings fully define them. The masks come off, and the audience gets to see what s underneath the surface. The strong. The smart. The survivors. For the University of Maryland s production of The Me Nobody Knows staged 44 years after the musical s original debut directors Scot Reese and Alvin Mayes, along with music director Dr. L.D. Sparks, teleport the musical s original characters and setting from the 1970s to the 2010s. Strikingly and with a due note of mixed feelings this shift is a seamless one. While the central prose in The Me Nobody Knows was birthed in the 1960s, we are faced with telling truths when we compare past circumstances to those we face in the present. During the 1960s the world was embroiled with the Cold War and the Vietnam War. We were struggling with an oil and energy crisis and an economic recession. Race relations were tenuous and debates regarding civil rights raged. And so, where are we now? It is 2014 what has changed? Forty-four years later our nation is wrestling with the War on Terrorism; trying to rebound from a Global Financial Crisis; and we are still entrenched in civil rights debates that include and go beyond issues of race. Yes, the world has taken many great steps forward. The world has also taken steps backwards, circling around the same problems. Thus, The Me Nobody Knows not only serves as a powerful piece of musical theatre, it also serves as a powerful reminder: there is still, and perhaps there always will be, work to be done. Co-Directors Note / Fable The following excerpt is from the play s directors, Alvin Mayes and Scot Reese. During the production process, they develop a fable of the play to provide the actors and creative team with the context of the world that they envision. It s 2014 and a group of students have gathered for their weekly two-hour afterschool youth group therapy session in the basement of the downtown Holy Cross Catholic Church. They are a living example that explodes the myth that we live in a post-racial world. These brave warrior-survivor/students are the product of stereotyping, stop-and-frisk policies, fears and fantasies based on the intersection of race, gender and class. The mere passage of time is not enough to stop prejudice and bigotry, so they come here to address these problems in their lives through therapy, talk, music, art, games, homework and friendship. Each and every one has survived, and in telling their stories they offer hope and solace for each other. Some come as part of their probation; some have been referred through teachers, parents and counselors. Usually there is an adult who meets with the group, but today Melba the oldest is conducting the group. Other leaders in the group are Lillian, Carlos, Lloyd and Clorox. Mr. Grady is unseen, but he leads the group on occasion. Last week he gave the group four prompts that they would work on this week to see if they could create some piece of art/performance to go deeper into their issues. He thought that the group would be freer to express their feelings without an adult present. The four prompts he has given the group are: How I See Myself/Things I Can t See or Touch/How I See My Neighborhood/The World Outside. Each of these prompts gives the group a chance to explore issues of School Family Friends Loneliness - Confusion Anger - Violence Fighting Imprisonment Despair The Judicial System Government Killing Shootings Drugs Broken Homes Abuse Neighborhood Problems Racism Religion Death Love Science Sex God. By exploring each of these subjects, they are able to find the light that leads them to the next part of their journey. Melba, Clorox and Lloyd are about to graduate and need to make sure the rest of the group is finding the tools they need to get out of their situations, graduate from school and get into college. They need the structure and the support of the group to find the tools that will keep them away from the outside forces over which they have no control. They will use these tools to see themselves clearly, understand the things they can t see or touch and navigate their neighborhood and the world outside. By the end of the session they will have a breakthrough. They have all felt like outsiders waiting to come in finding a way to come in asking permission to come in through any window any source of light to find the love in themselves and in others. Through finding the light they know they will be all right. This group will be their catalyst for not becoming a statistic, but becoming a success. Scot Reese and Alvin Mayes 2 Timeline of Historical Events in American Politics and Civil Rights Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott begins (Rosa Parks). On November 5, 1956, The Nat King Cole Show debuts on NBC. Four Kennedy-Nixon debates are held; first presidential debates (and first to be televised). Nixon performs poorly because of his on-screen image. Civil rights sit-ins continue, including a sit-in at Woolworth s in Greensboro, NC. Miriam Makeba s South African passport is cancelled Freedom Riders board interstate busses to protest segregation. Cuban Missile Crisis; Cold War nearly becomes hot, Vasili Arkhipov prevents the end of the world. James Meredith is admitted into the University of Mississippi (formerly segregated) President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Four little girls are killed in the Birmingham bombing, a church bombing aimed at the Civil Rights Movement. The Feminine Mystique is published. March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; I Have a Dream Speech. Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers murdered in Mississippi Civil Rights Act passes in U.S. Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, adherent of Nation of Islam, becomes heavyweight champion of the world. 3 1965 Los Angeles race riots in the Watts neighborhood result in 34 deaths, 3,438 arrests and $40 million in property damage. U.S. officially sends its own troops to South Vietnam. Nation of Islam spokesman Malcolm X assassinated in New York Black Panthers party founded. Pan-African holiday Kwanza first celebrated. Mass draft protests in U.S. National Organization for Women founded Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Summer of Love, as Haight-Ashbury is crowded with counter-culture migration. 100,000 protesters march on the Pentagon; spokesmen announce they will use flower power to levitate it, flip it upside down and make it turn orange Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Race riots flare in more than 100 U.S. cities. Bobby Kennedy is assassinated in Los Angeles, California. Eartha Kitt invited to White House and then blacklisted to the U.S. entertainment industry. Julia TV show airs First Man on the moon. Manson Family murders. Original Me Nobody Knows book is published. Kent State Shootings. The Me Nobody Knows is first performed. 4 Angela Davis added to FBI Most Wanted List. Angela Davis acquitted. President Nixon declares a War on Drugs, stating that drug use in America is public enemy number one. The 26th Amendment passes, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. Shirley Chisholm becomes the first major party African-American candidate for President and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Tuskegee syphilis experiment ends. Title IX, prohibiting gender-based discrimination by educational institutions, is signed into law. Bill Gates founds Microsoft Roots: The saga of an American Family by Alex Haley is published. Steve Jobs founds Apple, Inc CNN, the first 24-hour news channel, is founded. MTV is launched Michael Jackson releases Thriller. Guion Bluford is the first African-American to go into space. Alice Walker receives the Pulitzer Prize for her book, The Color Purple. The Cosby Show debuts First contract for complete privatization of a prison is awarded, beginning a new era of racially disproportionate mass incarceration. Researchers discover the virus that causes AIDS. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is celebrated for the first time. Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 establishes a 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. 5 Eyes on the Prize is first shown on PBS. Douglas Wilder takes office as the first elected African-American governor. Four white police officers are videotaped beating Rodney King in Los Angeles. Clarence Thomas is appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court The LA Riots erupt after officers in the Rodney King case are acquitted. Carol Moseley Braun becomes the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. Spike Lee s Malcolm X is released. A truck bomb explodes in the parking garage under the World Trade Center in New York City. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is signed into law. Military Don t ask, don t tell policy is signed into law. The North American Free Trade Agreement is signed into law by the U.S. Class of 2015 is born. The Million Man March takes place in Washington DC. Bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City kills 168 and wounds 680. OJ Simpson is acquitted in the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandals rock the Clinton White House. Matthew Shepard is brutally murdered near the University of Wyoming. Amadou Diallo is shot 19 times outside his Bronx apartment. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 10,000 for the first time. 6 The world prepares for the possible effects of the Y2K bug in computers. Bob Jones University in South Carolina ends its ban on interracial dating. Colin Powell becomes first African-American appointed as U.S. Secretary of State. Nineteen terrorists hijack four airplanes and crash them into the World Trade Center, The Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people. Anthrax attacks kill five and infect 19 more through the mail system. The Patriot Act is signed into law. The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center opens at the University of Maryland The Beltway Sniper kills 10 and injures three others around Washington DC. No Child Left Behind Act is signed. Facebook is launched. Rosa Parks dies at the age of 92. Her body lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC before her funeral. Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans, killing at least 1,800 people U.S. Supreme Court rules that judges may deviate from federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine. A student shoots and kills 32 other students and professors at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia Barack Obama elected as first African-American President. U.S. Congress apologizes for slavery and Jim Crow. Oil prices hit a record $147 per barrel in the U.S. 7 Judge Keith Bardwell refuses to officiate at an interracial marriage in Louisiana. Michael Jackson dies. The BP oil spill dumps more than 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Don t ask, don t tell policy is repealed. Osama bin Laden is killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan. U.S. troops are withdrawn from Iraq Trayvon Martin is shot in Sanford, Florida. Barack Obama is re-elected President George Zimmermann is acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin, provoking weeks of protests nationwide. Boston Marathon bombings Michael Brown is shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. The killing prompts weeks of protests and highlights not only police violence but also the militarization of local law enforcement. 8 Selected Themes Within The Play Culture of Poverty: Poverty can become a self-perpetuating cycle. Often, poor families are more likely to feel negative, inferior, passive, hopeless and powerless. The characters in this play are struggling with debilitating circumstances brought on by deficient resources. How do these characters cope with the circumstances that they are handed? What are the ways that this culture of poverty is addressed/accepted/resisted? Dreams: Our dreams hold our unlimited desires and give us vision and purpose. Throughout this production the children constantly look beyond their circumstances to the stars above. Dreams and visions of hope and renewal resurface. Drugs: A drug is, in the broadest of terms, a chemical substance that has known biological effects on humans or other animals. Illegal drug use can be dangerous and deadly. In Act I Rhoda references kids taking pot and mentions that some kid asked her do I want to buy an up. Other references to drugs include: heroin, dope, LSD, speed and white horse. Economic Disparity: The U.S. consistently exhibits higher rates of income inequality than most developed nations. Half of the U.S. population lives in poverty or is low-income. The poorest 20 percent hold far less than 1 percent of the total national wealth, while the wealthiest 20 percent own more than 75 percent of the total. Some effects of this economic disparity are referenced in The Me Nobody Knows: poor housing and nutrition, inadequate healthcare, deficient educational resources, dysfunctional families, drugs crimes and violent altercations. Growing Up: Adolescence is the period following the onset of puberty during which a young person develops from a child into an adult. This is a transitional stage of physical and psychological human development. The teens in The Me Nobody Knows are confronted with situations and individuals they can t possibly understand, yet. Oppression: This is prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control, or the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel or unjust manner. Developed in the 1970s, the themes of economic and social oppression experienced by the children in The Me Nobody Knows still resonate today. Self-expression: The teachers in this production use unconventional means to engage their students. Through art, poetry, prose and song, students express their feelings, reveal anxiety and show optimism. Violence: There are several references to violent behavior in The Me Nobody Knows: criminal violence resulting in incarceration, emotional abuse (teacher s indifference) and domestic violence (father s beatings). 9 Vocabulary Bouncing Effect: Refers to a type/style of walking. It is often considered a walking defect. Evolution: The process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth. Synonyms: Darwinism, natural selection Ghetto: An impoverished, neglected or otherwise disadvantaged residential area of a city, usually troubled by a disproportionately large amount of crime. Nigger: A person of any race or origin (primarily suffered by blacks) regarded as contemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc. Historically, it is an extrem
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