The Grand Opera House will host a staged reading of the play “Combustible/Burn,” directed by Scot Mann, Feb. 28, at 8 p.m., as the latest event during the 2013-14 academic year to be organized under the theme “Looking Back & Moving Forward: Celebrating a Half-Century of Integration at Mercer University.” Admission is free and open to the public.
“Combustible/Burn,” written by Page Morton Hunter Professor of English Dr. Andrew Silver and published by Mercer University Press in 2002, chronicles a small group of devout students at Mercer who, from 1948-1956, attempted to topple segregation.
“I have rewritten the play with a team of talented actors to address this moment in Macon’s history,” Silver explained, “looking backward at the battles fought then in order to prompt us to work across cultural lines to address the struggles of today.”
Energized by daring, visionary professor, G. McLeod “Mac” Bryan, these remarkable students stood against fellow students, parents, community and denomination in their support of desegregation in their school, in their town and in their community. They protested Ku Klux Klan meetings, broke segregation laws on buses and in parks, joined integrated communes and summer camps, invited African Americans into their classrooms and into their homes and preached integration in black and white churches. For their active compassion, these idealistic Christian students found themselves disciplined, fired and jailed.
Joined by courageous West African Sam Oni, a Baptist convert, these students brought a Baptist university face to face with the “Christian ethic” of equality. In America, Oni found himself converting the Baptists who had once converted him. Though his faith was nearly shattered by the struggle, Oni, together with these students and a generation of brave African Americans, managed to desegregate both the first Southern Baptist church and the first private university in Georgia.
This documentary play was written from over three hundred hours of interviews, with almost every word coming directly from the original interview subjects themselves, telling a powerful story of Christian idealism, compassion and justice burning from a small Georgia city to the coast of Africa and back again.
“Dr. Silver has updated the work to include powerful moments from his hundreds of hours of interviews with the people who lived these historic events,” said Mann, assistant professor of communication and theatre arts and a Mercer alumnus.
“The production is presented on the beautiful Grand Opera House stage in the radio play-style tradition of shows like ‘Prairie Home Companion.’ Join us for this important event that reminds us of how our Macon and Mercer communities grew and began to unite after the era of segregation.”