OLEN MONTGOMERY. Clarence Norris. Haywood Patterson. Ozie Powell. Willie Roberson. Charles Weems. Eugene Williams. Andrew Wright. Leroy Wright. If many of the students in attendance at the 2019 International Thespian Festival showing of The Scottsboro Boys had never heard those names before,  they are unlikely to forget them now thanks to Bradford High School’s performance.

At least one member of that late-night audience was intimately familiar with the stories behind those nine names. Five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman directed and choreographed the original Broadway production of The Scottsboro Boys in 2010. She was on hand at ITF to celebrate the release of its amateur rights to schools like Bradford and to lead a panel discussion the following day about the show’s creation.

The Scottsboro Boys tells the story of nine young men — ranging in age from 13 to 20 — who were falsely accused of raping two white women aboard a train in 1930s Alabama. The watershed case in American civil rights history resulted in two landmark Supreme Court decisions that paved the way for blacks to serve on juries and to access effective legal counsel in criminal proceedings.

Stroman came across details of the trials when researching a new project with longtime collaborators John Kander and Fred Ebb. The composer and lyricist had given Stroman her big break as a choreographer with an Off-Broadway revival of their show Flora the Red Menace in 1987. Since then, Stroman has directed, choreographed, or handled both roles for some of Broadway’s most acclaimed musicals, including The Producers, the most decorated show in Tony history. Her other credits include The Music ManBigCrazy for YouContact, and Big Fish.

Stroman was joined at ITF by Chris Carter, who directed the Bradford High School production, the school’s troupe director and show vocal director Holly Stanfield, and the entire cast and crew. “It’s a story that had to be told because no one remembered the Scottsboro Boys,” said Stroman. “No one remembered them, and a lot of high school kids who came to see it were never taught about the Scottsboro Boys.”

According to Stroman, “We as creators held on to the show for a while, because it is a show you could get wrong. … Seeing it now, last night, out of my hands, and in the wonderful hands of Chris and these actors was such a big thrill. … It is a brave show to do, and you have to know you have the talent that is going to step up and do it. So, everybody who played a big part in making that happen, I salute you and applaud you.”

Dramatics sat in on Stroman’s ITF panel to capture highlights of her remarks about the origins of the show, the inspiration for its structure, and why the story matters.

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