Red Mountain’s  New Works Festival

Red Mountain Theatre’s Keith Cromwell


Red Mountain Theatre stages a new works festival that focuses on human rights.

When Keith Cromwell worked on the committee to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the pivotal year 1963 in the civil rights movement, the intersection of art, community and history led to an understanding of Birmingham as a unique place.

“This phrase—reclaiming Birmingham’s rightful place as the epicenter where international consciousness shifted toward human rights—really resonated with me,” says Cromwell, executive director of Red Mountain Theatre Company.

“When I look at who we are as a community, I often appreciate that the chip on our shoulder is what can motivate us to do amazing and great things,” he says.

This month Cromwell and Red Mountain undertake one of those amazing and great things with the Human Rights New Works Festival.

The festival focuses on human rights in all its many guises from issues of race to transgender to communication disorders.

“I like the escapism of theatre but I also like that theatre can be such a medium for what I call a third party conversation, a way we can deal with very difficult subjects. Therein lies conversation and perhaps some undertsanding even if it is just awareness of another’s condition,” Cromwell says. 

Throughout his career, Cromwell says he has been lucky to be involved as both an actor and director in nurturing new work and watching and supporting new artists.

“At Red Mountain, I am hoping we are stepping into a new and beautiful place where art can be incubated and the community can be drawn together,” Cromwell says. 

“When I first moved here in 2002, I had never set foot in Birmingham. People always say, ‘Why are you here; why did you stay?’. I can’t think of more fertile soil in which to have planted myself.

“If you desire to be a part of change, this is an exciting place to be and attempt to thrive,” he says.

“I have always been so blessed that the board has given me free reign to choose direction and lay the track. I want to make Red Mountain Theatre and Birmingham a place that becomes known as an arts incubator. We are working on a couple of pieces that I could very well imagine moving to Broadway in the future.”

Human Rights New Works Festival

Thursday, March 15

Alabama Story 7:30 p.m. (Also Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m.)

Alabama Story is Red Mountain’s full production New Work for the 2017-18 season. A two-act play about a librarian who takes on segregationist state senators in the Jim Crow South when they try to ban a children’s book from Alabama Public Libraries. This story is weaved together with that of two childhood friends, one black and one white, who were separated by a traumatic incident that only one remembers.

Friday, March 16

Writers Roundtable 7:30–8:30 p.m.

A panel discussion with the creative team from each new work at the festival. This time will give the audience the opportunity to learn the motivations behind each of the pieces while giving them an opportunity to ask questions about what they are about to experience.

The Ballad of Klook and Vinette 8:30 p.m.

Klook is a drifter who’s gotten too old to drift. Vinette is on the run but she doesn’t know what’s chasing her. Together, they make a tentative stab at love and reach for hope until the past catches up to the future and smacks it in the face. Tough, tender, funny, poignant, it explores the humanity that so often is overlooked when considering mass incarceration and its relationship to racial discrimination. Soulful music combined with a witty, moving story make this a mesmerizing and emotional theater experience.

Saturday, March 17

Everything That’s Beautiful 1 p.m.

When Luke and his wife Jess decide to allow their eight-year-old child Morgan, a biological boy, to live as a girl, they relocate in order to give the family a clean start. Luke and Jess each become seduced by the escape that extra-marital relationships provide, leaving their marriage strained. But when an accident threatens to expose the secret about Morgan, tensions run high. Faced with losing his child and his family, Luke must decide what’s worth fighting for.

Mother Emanuel 4:30 p.m.

Mother Emanuel presents an interpretation of the events that transpired at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015. On that evening, a young white male entered a Bible study, sat with the group, and then shot nine of its members. Through Mother Emanuel, the audience gets to know the lives and personal histories behind the names they’ve heard listed in the media, bringing to light a whole new level of understanding of the pain of loss as well as the importance of celebrating each and every moment of our own lives.

[Dinner Break 6:30–8:00 p.m.]

Sam’s Room 8:30 p.m.

Sam’s Room is a pop concert dramedy that follows Sam, a teenager in 1998 with nonverbal special needs, on his path to find a way to communicate. Shifting between cruel reality and pop star fantasy, Sam’s Room powerfully reveals the universal struggle with communication by giving a voice to someone who’s never had one.

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