|Kent State: A Requiem was performed at Kent in
1990 and 1995. Both of these productions were produced and directed by Dr. Payne. The
script to the 1990 performance saw the addition of dialog
|that reflected the University's decision to
construct a May 4 memorial on the Kent State Campus and the 1995 script included a new
character, Mary Vecchio, the runaway from Florida who was captured in John Filo's famous
photo, screaming over the body of slain student, Jeffrey Miller. The addition of
Mary Vecchio as a character was prompted by a request from Mary Vecchio herself to
have an acting role in the play. Rather than have her play one of the established roles, a
new character was written into the show. Thus, Mary Vecchio returned to Kent State for the
first time since May 4, 1970 and performed herself in this new updated version of Kent
State:A Requiem. And, as is the practice with additions, the role of Mary
Vecchio has remained part of the production.
Gregory Payne with Mary Vecchio at the Kent State
Kiva, 1995 production of Kent State: A Requiem (right)
||Mary Vecchio with actors from
state: a Requiem (2000)
We now move on to year 2000 and the 30th anniversary . The plan had been for Dr. Payne
to produce the play from Emerson College in Boston as he had done in 1990 and 1995
and to present it at Kent. However, securing funding for May 4 Task Force Commemoration
programs from Kent State's student government has rarely proven easy nor without
controversy. This year, it seems, Kent State's right-wing, republican student government
had run out of money. While most of the May 4 Task Force program was funded, funds were
not forthcoming for Dr. Payne and the Requiem. Those
fiscally conservative young caretakers of Kent State student's "student fees"
had allocated over $60,000 for a one time appearance by Colin Powell, allegedly a war
hero, and maybe even a future presidential (Republican) candidate. This same group
of student "representatives" (or a clone thereof) had allocated to Bob Dole
(former Republican presidential candidate and loser) over $50,000 to come speak at Kent
State last year.
Well, Colin never agreed to come and it seemed that the money would become available for
other uses, of which the Requiem could be one. However, the
funding was denied again because, in the interim between funding requests, the May 4 Task
Force had mentioned the play on its website and student government
forbids advertising before funding is approved. I will let you try to
figure that one out.
But then a STARR appeared in the sky and talked to Dr. Payne who talked to Kendra and the
production was brought to Kent by the Youngstown Players.
|I am not a theatre critic.
And, I find it difficult to judge the actions of those people I consider friends. So
I will leave that up to others and I will just comment briefly on my experiences with the
Requiem this year. Kendra had invited the cast to come to Kent so she
could 'size them up' in preparation for costuming the production. (This production marks
the fifth Requiem that Kendra has done. ) We met in Prentice Lot
on the Kent campus and then, after Kendra did measurements, we took the
cast on a tour of the May 4 site. Giving a tour of the site is always a learning
experience for me despite the fact that I am the one who is supposed to be dishing out the
knowledge. I learn what I need to know about what I don't know about May 4, 1970. I learn
about how people feel about what we do here in Kent, Ohio to remember May 4, 1970. And I
watch and listen as they respond to walking on historic and sacred ground....and I get to
Some of Requiem's Youngstown Playhouse
members in Prentice Lot (photo by Kendra)
And I understood then that the production of Requiem
would not just be a another part in a play for the actors nor just a chore for the
technical staff, but an experience for them that would survive well beyond the final
On the day of the play, May 3, 2000, in the Kiva, on Starr's 30th
birthday, I sat about two rows from the stage which put me in-between Florence Schroeder,
Bill Schroeder's mom and the action on stage. While the actor playing Bill Schroeder
recited his lines and the actor playing Mrs. Schroeder responded, I kept
"sneaking" peaks over my shoulder at Florence Schroeder. Bill (the actor)
had just said how worried he
|was for his mom, now that he was dead, "I
still worry about people...my mother...we were close...but then...that's not
adequate to describe how we were...She knew me better than anyone else." And I looked
behind me and saw Florence nod her head over and over in affirmation as she relived the
truth of those words. As the stage Mrs. Schroeder responded with, "I try to
remember the joy that Bill's life brought to all of us instead of...At least I have
these pictures." And while slides of photos of Bill at various stages in his life
flashed on the screen on the stage, I once again looked around. Florence was still
nodding, but faster, and tears were evident on her pensive face as she stared at the
screen on the stage, just beyond the actor, portraying her
son who sat silently on the edge of the stage.
And then I "lost it" and began to shed some tears of my own. Oh well,
so much for the detached objectivity of a drama critic. The Requiem
will always evoke extremes of emotion in me, whether it be sadness and tears as in this
case or anger as when this dialog takes place:
||To those opposed
to the war, dissent was inevitable. Many students at Kent State were angry.
||Pissed at Nixon
for sending in troops into Cambodia.
||Angry at a
"Silent Majority" for allowing him to do it.
||Fed up with an
administration at Kent who sidestepped the issues.
professors who refused to take stands.
It seems that so many elements went into making murder at Kent State and that there
were so many points along the path where common sense and compassion could have intervened
to prevent what did happen. Yet it did happen and you know as you listen to the victims
and one of their mothers, that it was as though it did not happen by accident. And you get
angry. And Kent State:A Requiem tells you much more than you
ever knew and the Youngstown Playhouse is to be praised for bringing their
production to Kent, where too many of its students just don't know enough about the
history of their own school.
Kent State:A Requiem should not be limited to being presented
on May 4 where it must compete with other related May 4 programs and even times and
venues. The Youngstown Playhouse needs to come back. Its message is timeless and will
always need to be told.
LEAVE YET! CLICK BELOW!
Kent State:A Requiem (2000) photo album
Meet the cast in their
roles. Photos accompanied by dialog from play.
Youngstown Playhouse playlist and
And how to get in touch with them.
State:A Requiem will also be perfomed
as part of a Boston conference on Kent and Jackson State, entitled "Writing the History(ies) of Kent
State/Jackson State: Reflections from Families, Victims, Journalists, Scholars and Artists" to be held in Boston on November 16 or 17 this year.
There will also be a presentation of "A Mother's Dance."
The conference is sponsored by the Center for Ethics in Political and Health
Communication at Emerson College. For more information you can contact Dr. Payne at Zulene@aol.com.
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