Baldwin's civil rights play "blooms" at New South Play Festival
By Lauren Highfill
Kennesaw State University lecturer in playwriting Margaret Baldwin is in full bloom this summer at the New South Play Festival. Her original play “Night Blooms” will be workshopped and performed at the event during the last week in June.
Baldwin has been developing her new play for about three years. At last year’s NSPF, “Night Blooms” was performed as a staged reading and received a great response. She also recently took her play to the Playwright Center in Minneapolis, Minn., for a workshop. “I’ve been really pleased with the audience response and feedback,” she said.
“Night Blooms” is set in Selma, Ala. in 1965 during the time of the historic civil rights marches. Baldwin’s play focuses on three generations of a family in Selma. “There’s a tension between the grandmother character, who wants life to continue as usual, and the other characters,” said Baldwin. “It shows what happens when you can’t ignore change—how people are forced to deal with change on a personal and societal level.”
The inspiration for Baldwin’s play came from her family members who lived in Selma during this important moment in history. “There’s a story that was passed around in my family that my grandmother and the housekeeper she had had for more than 40 years, who was African American, had gone to watch the march together,” she said. “That was a story I always wanted to tell.”
During her extensive research for the play, Baldwin discovered that that particular story was more of a familial myth than a historical fact. However, she found that this new situation offered her more questions to explore in the play: “Where did that story come from? How does a family connect itself to historical moments?” asks Baldwin.
Baldwin says the title for “Night Blooms” originates from the night-blooming cercus flower, which blooms only one night a year. “My great-grandmother used to have a party on this night and everyone would come and witness the rare blooming of this plant,” said Baldwin. In the play, this one night coincides with the memorable march of March 21, 1965.
In addition to Baldwin’s involvement in the play, members Associate Professor Karen Robinson and Assistant Professor Harrison Long also play key roles. Robinson is the director of “Night Blooms” and has directed a number of Baldwin’ other plays. Long plays the character of the prodigal son who returns to Selma to participate in the march. “That’s a great thing about Kennesaw State,” said Baldwin, “my colleagues are also my collaborators in professional theatre.”
The public reading for “Night Blooms” will be held on Sunday, June 29 at 1 p.m. at Horizon Theatre Company in Atlanta. Tickets are $5 and are available at the door.