Vivian’s Music, 1969
Good Works Productions
In 1969 Omaha, the fourteen-year-old unarmed black girl Vivian Strong was shot in the back of the head and killed by a white policeman who was later found not guilty of any crime.
Monica Bauer imagines through two linked monologues a thoughtful and innocent Vivian along with other characters in the Omaha of 1969.
The play is gentle, occasionally funny and often sensitively lyrical in the glimpse it gives us of a troubled time.
Vivian (Kailah King) tells us she “can’t take it being seen, visible.” Yet she is inquisitive about the people around her and loves her mother’s secret collection of jazz records which she takes out and enjoys. She particularly likes a record by Dave Brubeck.
She’s observant and fond of the local sixteen-year-old Dwayne who has joined the Black Panthers so that black people are “not gonna have to bleed for the white man and Nam no more.”
She also hears something important about Luigi Wells, a local jazz musician who plays at the Dreamland ballroom, but she hasn’t yet felt able to speak to him about it.
Luigi (Russell Jordan) describes his own restless youth when his mother warned him against certain local women and encouraged him to leave the area for New York.
He only returned when she died. Responding to an advertisement placed by a Polish family for a music teacher, he not only gets the job with the help of “my impress the white people lies”, but also gets the Polish husband to play in his jazz band.
This is a compassionate play, evoking an elegiac mood of lost innocence and opportunities.