The Scottsboro Boys

By Dalia Wolfson11th Grade, Hunter College High School   The Scottsboro Boys is a theatrical version of a very real event. In 1931, nine young black men were cornered at a railroad stop in Alabama and convicted of gang raping two white women. Their case was carted around from jury to jury, and they were consistently falsely accused and always a hair’s breadth away from the electric chair. The audience follows these nine men as they sing and dance about their trials. The play especially focuses on Haywood Patterson, whose stubborn will to live and speak truthfully is expressed through powerful vocals and excellent acting. Perhaps the most unique quality of this play is that the Scottsboro Boys realize that they are acting. Indeed, the whole story is told in the context of a “minstrel show”—a popular form of musical entertainment in the early 20th century that involved whites in black-face portraying ‘The African Way’. In this performance, however, all of the actors (except for the major authority figure, who plays judge/interlocutor/narrator) are black, acting as men of color. The structural layer of the minstrel show—once a form degrading and mocking blacks—transposed onto a true story performed by black actors lends additional depth to the interpretation of the dialogue, relationships and mannerisms of the characters. The Scottsboro Boys is a play of, on and with color. On multiple occasions, we, the audience, become the jury, the witnesses and the American public. This role —both within the theater and outside of it—forces us to consider our actions and our civic  responsibility. The Scottsboro Boys is particularly relevant to teens today because as the upcoming generation, we are faced with the duty to promote tolerance and preserve justice in our society. Let’s hope that we can do so in a colorful manner.

Music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, book by David Thompson TICKETS: $26.50 student rush • Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St. www.scottsboromusical.com

Read more about The Scottsboro Boys here.