Director Jewels: We Shall Not Be Moved: The Student Sit-Ins of 1960 at Kansas City's Coterie Theatre {Review}

Thursday, September 28, 2017

We Shall Not Be Moved: The Student Sit-Ins of 1960 at Kansas City's Coterie Theatre {Review}

Disclosure: I received press passes to attend this production at The Coterie Theatre. I received no other compensation and all views expressed are my own.


The Coterie Theatre has been one of my favorite performing arts venues in Kansas City since I was very young. The Coterie has always offered productions that both entertain and challenge their audiences. The theatre has just kicked off its 39th season, and they are off to a very thought-provoking start with We Shall Not Be Moved: The Student Sit-Ins of 1960.

Left to Right: Darrington Clark (as Young Man), Antonia Washington (as Yvonne),
Khrystal L. Coppage (as Dierdre), and Robert E. Coppage III (as Eugene Conrad)
in The Coterie’s production of, We Shall Not Be Moved, by Ed Simpson.
Directed by Jeff Church, on stage September 19 - October 22, 2017.
Photo by J. Robert Schraeder and courtesy of The Coterie Theatre.

Written by Ed Simpson and directed by Jeff Church, the production tells the story of the student-led sit-in at segregated lunch counters which inspired a movement of non-violent protests. The play shows us how the students (inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.) and their non-violent demonstration eventually gained momentum to inspire an entire generation to stand up for their Civil Rights. Similar to The Coterie's Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was produced back in 2014, We Shall Not Be Moved was deeply moving and motivating.

Left to Right: Robert E. Coppage III (as Eugene Conrad) and
Khrystal L. Coppage (as Dierdre) in The Coterie’s production of, We Shall Not Be Moved,
by Ed Simpson. Directed by Jeff Church, on stage September 19 - October 22, 2017.
Photo by J. Robert Schraeder and courtesy of The Coterie Theatre.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the play is the interactive audience-participation, which allows those who are watching the production to ask questions of the performers and have them answer while still in character. Many of the young kids in the audience the day I attended brought up questions that otherwise might not have crossed the mind of the audience - such as When did segregation begin? and Why did you not want your child to be involved in the sit-ins? Hearing the actors answer the questions while still in character made it much easier for the kids to absorb the history lesson rooted in this production. Audience members of all ages participated when asked what they thought was the motivation behind the characters making certain choices throughout the show.

It might seem like the show would come to a screeching halt with the addition of a question and answer segment in the middle of the performance, but the production quality is high and the actors were able to carry on after ending the interactive segment as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

Left to Right: Khrystal L. Coppage (as Dierdre), Antonia Washington (as Yvonne), 
Darrington Clark (as Young Man), and Alisa Lynn (as Jenny) in The Coterie’s production of,
We Shall Not Be Moved, by Ed Simpson. Directed by Jeff Church, on stage September 19 -
October 22, 2017. Photo by J. Robert Schraeder and courtesy of The Coterie Theatre.

We Shall Not Be Moved is a uniquely compelling piece. I am certain that many audience members will leave the production and look at their world through a different lens. Change comes when people are willing to stand up for what is right. I hope that this production reaches as many people as possible during its short run. It will be truly inspirational for young people, teens, and adults alike to see what is possible when even just one person decides to take a stand for what they believe in.

Left to Right: Khrystal L. Coppage (as Dierdre), Antonia Washington (as Yvonne), 
Darrington Clark (as Young Man), Tommy Waller (as Newspaper),
Daniel Eugene Parman (as Mike Perkins), Roan Ricker (as Jerry Bigelow),
Alisa Lynn (as Debbie), Matthew J. Williamson  (as Phil Perkins), and
Deanna Mazdra (as May) in The Coterie’s production of, We Shall Not Be Moved,
by Ed Simpson. Directed by Jeff Church, on stage September 19 - October 22, 2017.
Photo by J. Robert Schraeder and courtesy of The Coterie Theatre.

The show runs approximately 75 minutes with no intermission. The performance is designed to be enjoyed by adults, teens, and young people aged 11 and older, but  the day I attended, there were a lot of young kids in the audience and they stayed engaged throughout the production.

Left to Right: Matthew J. Williamson (as Publisher) and Darrington Clark (as Young Man)
in The Coterie’s production of, We Shall Not Be Moved, by Ed Simpson.
Directed by Jeff Church, on stage September 19 - October 22, 2017.
Photo by J. Robert Schraeder and courtesy of The Coterie Theatre.

We Shall Not Be Moved: The Student Sit-Ins of 1960 plays now through October 22 at the Coterie. Tickets are available online.

Disclosure: I received press passes to attend this production at The Coterie Theatre. I received no other compensation and all views expressed are my own.

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