Stageworks Theatre Tampa will present a staged reading of “When The Righteous Triumph,” about the sit-ins in downtown Tampa in that led to integration of local lunch counters in 1960. The play, written by local dramatist and USF professor Mark E. Leib, was commissioned by Stageworks in 2021 and is scheduled to receive a full production in March, 2023. The staged reading, on Sunday, April 24 at 3 pm, will be the first time that this new work will be presented before a live audience. Audience members are encouraged to stay for the talkback with the playwright and director after the reading and weigh in with their thoughts and concerns.
“Stageworks has for many years shown itself to be attentive to human rights issues,” said Leib, whose plays have appeared in New York, Chicago, and locally. “And Artistic director Karla Hartley was enthusiastic about “Righteous” from the start. The story of the coming of the Civil Rights movement to Tampa when Eisenhower was still president is a fascinating one. Expect to meet some local heroes – the barber Clarence Fort, who started the sit-ins, Reverend A. Leon Lowry of the NAACP, who brought the force of his organization behind the downtown protests, and Major Julian Lane, who worked astutely to prevent Tampa from turning into a byword for racial strife like Birmingham and Little Rock. But there are other key figures besides, like the Middleton and Blake students who marched on the lunch counters, attorney Cody Fowler, who led negotiations between the Black community and white store owners, and the mysterious Joseph Dasher, a maverick figure who organized large protests that threatened to swamp NAACP efforts. I researched the sit-ins closely and spoke with anyone I could find from that time and after. It’s a great story and one that the local population should know. I’m honored that Stageworks commissioned me to tell it.”
“When The Righteous Triumph” will appear at 3 pm April 24 at Stageworks’ home in the Channel District of Tampa, 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd. Tickets are $6. To reserve a seat, go to https://stageworkstheatre.secure.force.com/ticket/#/events/a0S5c00000EOKLqEAP or call Stageworks at 813-374-2416. For more information call Mark E. Leib at 813-767-3107 or Wendy Leigh at 813-841-9641.
“As movements like Black Lives Matter garner headlines and demand racial justice, I think we should remember what happened 60 years ago on Franklin Street and at Britton Plaza,” said Leib. “At a time when local Black people weren’t allowed on public beaches, white-run movie theaters, or even at Lowry Park Zoo, some courageous men and women stood up for the promise of equality. Their story is as dramatic as anything on the evening news. I guarantee it will surprise you.”