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ENCINO : Troupe Teaches Civil Rights to Students

To celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., students at Los Encinos School in Encino attended a special presentation by the Los Angeles Music Center on Friday that re-enacted historic moments in the civil rights struggle.

Put on by the Imagination Company, a multicultural children’s theater troupe, the play “Living the Dream” depicted the history of slavery as well as the life of the slain civil rights leader.

The Imagination Company is part of the Music Center Education Division’s Music Center on Tour program, which takes shows to schools statewide.

Although the three-member troupe uses traditional techniques for teaching civil rights--such as singing “We Shall Overcome” and re-enacting Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala.--the actors also incorporate other tactics.

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For instance, all three of the actors--who are black, Asian and white--played the part of King at some point during in the play.

Actor Tony Sanders explained to the children, “We’re actors. A white actor can play a black person and a black actor can play a white person.” To differentiate between a white character and a black character, the actors wore either a black or white scarf.

The actors also invited two children onstage to demonstrate what it was like for African Americans in the South before the civil rights movement. Sanders, with a child on each hand, walked back and forth between fellow actors Rex Lee and Laura Pursell trying to get a drink of water, vote at a polling place, buy a meal at a restaurant and go to a movie theater.

He was turned away at each effort.

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“This just isn’t fair!” the actors exclaimed in unison at the end of the sketch. The trio then explained how the civil rights movement developed and presented segments of King’s speeches.


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