JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University (ETSU) hosted a one-night-only event on Monday to honor and celebrate Black History Month.
The Dream Continues: The History of the Civil Rights Movement is an oratorical play retelling of events during the civil rights movement, from slavery to the present day. The work was written by Bobby Funk and directed by Daniel Parker, as part of his honor’s thesis.
The play was originally created by Funk for the opening of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. It was initially a 50-minute production that was created to be able to fit into a class period. The work covers the pre-Civil War era and continues into the 1980s.
Funk told News Channel 11 he was inspired to tell the stories of the lesser-known participants in the Civil Rights Movement, including what he called ‘foot soldiers’ of the cause.
“I started to read oral histories, and I got interested in not Martin Luther King or the leaders of the movement,” Funk said. “I got interested in a lot of the foot soldiers, people that we never hear about. And so I began to collect those oral histories, interviewed some people, most of it came from research.”
This new version is two hours long; Parker and Funk told News Channel 11 this was the first and only performance of this re-work.
“What impressed me was the fact that having read it, I didn’t know half of the people that were mentioned, and though I sort of grew up during that timeframe, the 50s and 60s, I still didn’t know the whole story,” said Parker.
“So, that really excited me to go through and to learn and to be able to present this because as Bobby Funk will tell you, our young people don’t know half of the folks that this thing is talking about, I’m of this era and I don’t know half,” he added.
During the play, many songs were sung in between the dialogue. The songs helped portray what the characters were experiencing during that time. Many hymns like “Oh, This Little Light of Mine,” and “Take My Hand Precious Lord” were performed.
“I want the storyteller and not just the words of the people, but the music,” Funk said. “Music was such an important part of who these people were and it was a big part of their movement. So I felt it was very important to incorporate music into the play.”
Funk told News Channel 11 this was the only performance of ‘The Dream Continues’ planned so far, however, more performances may take place if the group so decides.