JEFFERSONVILLE — Community members planning a series of theater productions meant to foster conversations on race and identity say they’re just months away from the project’s first release.
“School Colors Now” is a reboot of Jeffersonville High School productions performed between the early 1990s and the early 2000s. The original shows included skits borne out of conversations addressing how race played a role in students’ lives, experiences and beliefs.
The project now includes participation by many of the original students, some joined by their own children, and other students sharing their experiences now. Jenni Herfel, a Jeffersonville High School educator who helped facilitate some of those early conversations among students, said she and the others are bound by what they learned about themselves and from one another then, and hope to carry that conversation to wider audiences.
“That experience of 27 years ago, it’s a life-long relationship of love and respect,” Herfel said.
Organizers hope to have the first of a series of vignettes ready virtually before the end of the year, with a live production planned for spring or summer of 2021. The stories will be recorded and available to be shared with schools, churches and other community groups.
“That’s the beauty of this work because then the community gets involved...and then they will take an active part in the discussion,” said Barb Anderson, one of the project organizers and executive director of Haven House Services. “It would be a great way to really build support for a movement.”
The collaboration started in early spring, and members at a Wednesday meeting agreed that the need for the discussion has grown and evolved amid national protests after the deaths of Black Americans killed by police this year in the United States.
Indiana State Representative Rita Fleming, part of the group helping to organize the productions, said while the protests have brought to the surface issues that long have been happening in this country, continued discussion is needed to get closer to solutions.
“That has to start with self-acknowledgment and discussion, and move on to problem-solving and resolution,” she said, adding that “means more than just a ‘tolerance’ of people, [but] an acceptance of people.
“I think that’s our goal is to foster the collaboration and the discussion to reach resolution.”
Anderson said she feels the national discussion should go deeper and that the discussion has also “evolved from just a racial issue to an inequity issue across the board for people who have been oppressed in this country.”
“Change just has to happen and I can see this as a catalyst.”
The group hopes now to raise $50,000 toward the project; $3,000 of which has been provided by Fleming as seed money. Conversations are also ongoing with other potential supporters. All funds remaining after production costs will be put aside for scholarships for Southern Indiana high school students.