Announcing a free, public reading of MERIDIAN SUMMER on Sunday, May 5, 3:00 pm at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater. The reading will conclude an intensive weekend workshop of the play with Director Sasha Brätt and actors Darlene VanAlstyne. Rodney Witherspoon II, Amie Lytle, Gigi Watson, and Greg Maraio with the playwright, Candace Perry.
The audience is invited to stay after Sunday’s reading to share reactions to the play.
On June 21, 1964, Klan members from Meridian’s Lauderdale County and nearby Neshoba County were on the lookout for a blue station wagon being driven by civil rights workers. That night they murdered James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. The car’s license plate number had been provided by a member of the black community to a member of Meridian’s White Citizens’ Council, given by him to the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, and passed on to the Klan members. On June 21, 2005, exactly forty-one years after the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, Ku Klux Klan member Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to sixty years in prison. No one else has ever been tried as an accomplice to the murders.
Out of this history came Candace Perry’s play, MERIDIAN SUMMER. This play has its roots in her childhood. Every summer, she visited her mother’s family in Meridian, Mississippi. It wasn’t until she was an adult that Perry learned that James Chaney was a native of Meridian. Growing up, she’d heard from her white family that “outside agitators” were to be blamed for all the “troubles.” She wanted to write about the Movement from some very personal points of view, both inside it and outside it. MERIDIAN SUMMER is a work of fiction based on actual events of Freedom Summer, 1964.
More than 50 years ago James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andy Goodman were killed for working to register African-Americans to vote. In writing MERIDIAN SUMMER, Perry hopes to show the power of prejudice and to honor those who continue the struggle for human rights.