Writers say faith at heart of voting-rights struggle in new play

Writers say faith at heart of voting-rights struggle in new play

August 18th, 2012 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment


What: "The Battle Ain't Over."

When: 6:30 p.m. today, 6 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Chauncey Goode Auditorium, Tennessee Temple University, 1815 Union Ave.

Admission: Free.

Phone: 838-5663 or 313-7343.

Without its main building block, said the local authors of a new play on the struggle for voting rights in the civil-rights era, what was accomplished may never have occurred.

"The Battle Ain't Over," a two-act play based on events that occurred in the 1960s, will be staged today and Sunday at Chauncey Goode Auditorium on the campus of Tennessee Temple University.

Faith is at the heart of the play, said co-writer and director Brandalyn Shropshire, "because that was one of the cornerstones of the civil-rights movement. There was no way we could [write it] without incorporating faith."

Sponsored by the Hamilton County Voter Empowerment Team and the Mount Canaan Baptist Church Performing Arts Ministry, the production focuses on how the civil-rights movement affected three family units in a small town in Georgia in the early 1960s.

In the first, John, a blue-collar father in a black family rich in love and strong spiritual values, eschews his once strong passion for the movement following a series of events to make certain his children become productive and successful citizens. But things change when his son joins the movement and becomes a Freedom Rider.

Shropshire said the audience will see that prayer is a "fundamental basic" for the family.

In the second storyline, Maria, the daughter of a wealthy white family but nurtured by a black maid, returns from college in New York with a desire to join the movement and a boyfriend who sets off panic in the town.

The maid, said Shropshire, exudes her faith with constant prayers and hymn-singing.

In the third segment, young widow MaryAnn struggles with the criticism of friends, obstacles at the voting precinct and her own emotions in an attempt to become a registered voter.

The audience, said Shropshire, will see the character cry out to God and ask for guidance.

Producer and co-writer Kim Christian said it was the faith of early movement participants that allowed them to believe they would eventually earn free and unfettered voting rights.

"It gave them the strength to help fighting for what they believed in," she said.

Sabrina Patton, the third co-writer, said that went for all parts of the civil-rights struggle.

"As long as we know all things are possible," she said, "then [with] the battle we're going through, we [know we] can go through it."

Shropshire said although the play is a snapshot of history, anyone, regardless of race or religious background, can take something from the production.

"I hope everyone [can see] the spirituality in it," she said, "how strong it was then, how strong it should be today, especially in this election year."

Although faith is at the heart of the play, the importance of voting is its theme, the authors said.

Christian said a fellow member of Mount Canaan Baptist, who is a member of the Hamilton County Voter Empowerment Team, asked her to write the play, and she enlisted Shropshire and Patton to help her.

"We didn't want to focus on African-Americans," she said. "We wanted to depict that era, what the importance was of the struggle and why it's important now."

Christian said she hopes the play conveys the importance of making voting a responsibility.

Especially, she said, because of "what Americans had to go through to have something so simple."

Patton agreed.

"If nothing else," she said, "I hope when they leave this production, they'll understand it's not about who they vote for but that they would exercise the right to vote. That's my main objective."

The production will be preceded by a talk-back with Chattanooga civil-rights movement pioneers tonight and by a brief time of praise and worship on Sunday.