Original Play to Be Unveiled at Juvenile Hall

It’s been tough for Eric McGinnis, a visual performing arts teacher, to put on a play at his school because his student actors are constantly leaving--some go to prison, others move on to the California Youth Authority, some to county reform camps and a few go home.

But although staging a production at Central Juvenile Hall in eastern Los Angeles is difficult, McGinnis said, the rewards for his students are worth the effort.

About 30 students will unveil their first official production tonight, “Free At Last!"--an original play about the civil rights movement written, acted and produced by the students themselves. On

“The students feel good because in the last year or so, they’ve been putting parents and friends through a great deal of stress,” McGinnis said. “Here’s an opportunity to give back to loved ones and society, almost like repaying society by contributing.”


In the play, the students are a rambunctious group of apathetic teenagers in a history class who find themselves transported back to the time of the civil rights movement.

The angriest history class student suddenly finds those around him calling him “Dr. King.” At first, he rejects their pleas for his help, knowing he is not Martin Luther King Jr. Later, however, he rises to the occasion when he discovers how much people are depending on him.

The play ends with the students back in their classrooms, being led in a round of “We Shall Overcome,” by the student who found himself in King’s shoes.