INDIANAPOLIS -- On the surface Indiana Repertory Theatre’s new play “April 4, 1968: Before We Forgot How to Dream” is about Robert Kennedy’s speech, but really it’s about Geneva. She is the young voice that guides the audience through an Indianapolis family’s experience of that tragic night Kennedy announced the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Geneva is a junior at Shortridge High School undergoing a political awakening. She knows the senator from New York is on his way to visit Indianapolis as part of his presidential campaign and she wants to be there when he does. Geneva believes in Kennedy and political activism. This is also her chance to write a big story for the student newspaper The Shortridge Daily Echo.
She is stubborn and steadfast in her opinions, which causes her to butt heads with her father who routinely refers to politics as “poli-tricks.”
“Geneva Fields is really starting to wrestle with the complications of what it means to be a woman, to be African-American, what it means to be political,” IRT playwright James Still said. “One of the things I love about her is that she’s very opinionated. She has a real desire to learn and at the same time she is vulnerable.”
As the play’s guide Geneva is well-suited. She not only forces the audience to remember the sobering words of the New York senator that calmed a heart-broken city, but she also causes one to remember what it’s like to be 16-years old and alienated. It is through her eyes the city can relive one of its most tender and vulnerable moments.
“April 4, 1968” is performed on a thrust stage and appropriately so. It provides more intimacy with the audience than the traditional proscenium because audience members are seated on three sides of the stage. At one point Geneva is handing out flyers to the audience inviting all to come see Kenney speak at 17th and Broadway streets where he spoke from the back of a flatbed truck.
It’s almost like the audience is experiencing the same fateful day with Geneva.
In preparation for writing the play, Still spent four years listening to more than 50 people who were there that night Kennedy visited Indianapolis or were somehow affected by the shocking news. So Geneva and her family could be considered the amalgamation of several different people’s experiences. Some of the people Still interviewed included former Indiana state senators Theresa Lubbers and Billie Breaux.
“Still took the research he had done and the conversations he had with the people and he put it in the voice of a young person,” Breaux said. “This young person who represents our future gives us all hope that there will be a brighter tomorrow.”
“April 4, 1968” is being performed at the Indiana Repertory Theatre through November 15. Tickets are available at irtlive.com ranging from $20 to $59.