Historical Society Seeks Local Actors for Oklahoma Centennial Play
CHICKASHA – In celebration of Oklahoma’s centennial, a local historical society is looking for actors to participate in a new, original drama about the Verden Separate School. Auditions for “School Days” begin at 10 a.m. on June 2 in the Chickasha Public Library.
The Loretta Y. Jackson African-American Historical Society is presenting the historical, interactive drama for tour groups at the site of the newly renovated Verden Separate School on June 30. The play will include a tour of the schoolhouse, a question and answer session and a picnic provided by volunteers from the historical society.
African-American children between the ages of 6 and 13 are encouraged to audition, as are African-American males age 21 and over. There are also volunteer opportunities for adults of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.
No preparation is necessary for the audition, but actors should be prepared to read from selections provided by director Dolores Willoughby Smith. One role in the play is Allen Toles, founder of the historic school.
In all, the production staff has roles for 14-20 community members. Rehearsals will take place throughout June.
Penned by Katie Davis, assistant professor of drama at the University of Science and Arts, the original play calls upon memories and written letters from those who actually attended the Verden Separate School. Davis also drew from historical and biographical sources depicting the conditions of one-room schoolhouses in the United States.
“I am fascinated by the teaching and community-building aspects of drama,” Davis said. “It has been exciting to learn from Loretta about the unique history of the Verden Separate School and to find a way to bring that story to life for families in Chickasha. The play not only celebrates the Oklahoma Centennial, it celebrates the history of our African-American community and honors all those who taught and learned in one-room schools.”
Davis has been a director and playwright for more than a decade. Her adaptations of Shakespeare's plays have been performed at Corinth Theatre-Arts in Corinth, Miss. Her original plays have been performed at the University of Mississippi in Corinth and at the University of Texas at El Paso. Katie studied playwriting with Michael Wright, author of “Playwriting in Process,” “Playwriting Master Class” and “Playwriting at Work and Play.”
“It was fun to go through the creative process with my students,” said Davis, “developing the script for ‘School Days,’ while supporting such an important project in the community.”
On Feb. 24, USAO President John Feaver addressed an outdoor crowd of 150 for the long-awaited dedication of the restored one-room school project in Chickasha. Sponsored by the Oklahoma Centennial as an official state event, the dedication welcomed state officials and a crowd of Chickasha citizens to cut the ribbon for the first structure in the Loretta Y. Jackson African-American Museum.
The century-old structure was found on a Verden farm, moved to Chickasha and painstakingly restored. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Feaver is chairman of Preservation Oklahoma and led the plan to put the Oklahoma College for Women National Historic District on the national register in 2001.