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“FOUR LITTLE GIRLS: Birmingham 1963”

“FOUR LITTLE GIRLS: Birmingham 1963”
Written by Christina Ham
Directed by Kelly Beuth
Featuring student actors of Buffalo’s Performing Arts High School.
Reviewed by Jeff Wilber:
It was HOT last night!  The last place I wanted to be was in a stuffy, hotter, little black box theater with no A/C and very little ventilation watching some high-school kids perform.  But my wife, in her infinite wisdom, coerced me by promising ice cream afterwards.  So I went.  And I am so glad that I did!  
The events that this show documents were among the most heinous of tragedies that the chaotic times of the early 60’s bred.  Four little girls were killed in a church bombing on a Sunday.  It was a racially motivated crime.  It went unanswered and unresolved until the early 2000’s.  This is heady stuff.
Many people despair the youth of today.  They talk about the lack of imagination, that video games and smart phones have replaced creativity.  They bemoan the short attention spans and all the other distractions and amusements that proliferate in young minds.  They anguish over the futures of our youth!  This is something I believe must be generational.  I didn’t have it as good – or as bad – as my parents.  And they didn’t have it as good – or as bad – as their parents before them.  We never really can truly understand the sacrifices they made for us because we are not them and we were not there!  And, because of this, we tend to take so much for granted – including our history.
Not these kids!  No, they dive headfirst into this gritty subject matter.  There is hard-hitting language and harsh situations.  It was a time of violent revolution in this country.  People, simply because of the color of their skin, were being beaten, hosed, even killed just because they wanted to drink from the same water fountain, go to the same school and sit at the same lunch counter as their white counterparts.  And, because we have gotten older, and things have gotten better, we tend to think it’s all resolved.  But it’s not.
These kids get that!  Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it, someone wise once said.  And these young performers are not only reminding their audience of the cost of equality, but also learning the history and the price of that fight themselves!  They have immersed themselves in this well written, well-directed piece and are conveying to the audience not just the immensity of the battle, but also the personalities of those who fought in it, and died because of it.  Of the loss of four little girls who had dreams and aspirations of their own – never to be realized.
These kids are not trained professionals – not yet.  But the honesty, and fearlessness, they convey on that Spartan set transcends and dwarfs some of the best theater I’ve seen.  It is what theater should be!  A moment, a past, recaptured and presented for our judgment and our edification.  A brief flash of history bathed in loss – a loss to be shared and remembered by all of us.  A name and a persona given to a dead child who is recalled more of as a symbol, than as a human being whose life was cut short.  And, sadly, that there is a steep cost to radical change.  And that that change has not ended.  And that the fight will go on and on – especially for those kids on that stage, who are also now those on the front lines.
I never did get the ice cream.  But what I did receive was far more precious – insight and perspective.  And a little bit of appropriate heartbreak.  Go check out these kids and this show.  It’s a short show – just about an hour.  You can give them that.  They’ve sure earned it.  
Directed by Kelly Beuth.
Featuring student actors of Buffalo’s Performing Arts High School.
Subversive Theater Collective – Facebook
255 Great Arrow Avenue, Buffalo, New York 14207
May 22nd – June 1st, 2013
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, & Saturdays @ 8pm
Please Note: no show Friday, May 31st 
Tickets $12.00 General Admission 
Admission for all Wednesday performances is pay-what-you-can
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