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Sandra Seaton recalls once seeing a film about Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall that celebrated his achievements while ignoring everything else.
“The other attorneys (in the film) had personal lives,” Seaton said. “You saw (Marshall) in his judicial robes, but you didn’t learn anything about his personal life.”
For playwright Seaton, the writer-inresidence at Michigan State University’s College of Law, such sins of omission are sadly commonplace in many portraits of African-American culture.
“Sometimes, if people aren’t part of the majority, we tend to get flat portrayals of them,” she said.
Seaton will do her part to counteract that with “Music History,” her contribution to this year’s Renegade Theatre Festival. Performances are scheduled at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 1223 Turner Street.
Set in the early 1960s, it follows African- American college students Etta and Walter at the University of Illinois as they discover love amid the tensions of the times. Seaton hopes the play will “get younger people to imagine what life was like back then, in ways that can touch their own experience. They’ll see people all along have had challenges and lives similar to their own.”
John Lepard is directing the Renegade staging; “Music History” will have a full production in November at MSU.
Seaton said the last thing she wants is a preachy play that emphasizes the message over the emotional experience.
“You want to entertain, to draw people in,” she said. “That’s where I’m coming from.”