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Opera Reenacts March on Washington

Let’s be honest, reflecting on those who took active roles in the Civil Rights movement is not something the average person thinks about on a day-to-day basis. But Alan Marshall is unique.

Not only does he remember the brave folks who took a stand for Black people everywhere, he is doing something to keep the past alive. The March Civil Rights Opera Project’s dual role is to educate and entertain simultaneously. Its performance, “Prelude to a Dream,” will be a dramatization of the horrific events that occurred during the famous 1963 march in Washington, which is also where the Aug. 27 performance will be held (1518 M Street N.W. at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, D.C.).

The performance will attempt to capture the tension during the final moments before the March and focus on stories the average person planning to participate experienced.Additionally, Marshall wants to commemorate the March on Washington’s 50th anniversary. He also hopes to raise funds to expand his theatrical project, which gives African-American opera singers a platform to perform and inform the people on that historical moment.

The artistic writer/director shared with JET why this project is so personal and what others can do to help.

JET: Okay, so can you explain what “Prelude to a Dream” is all about and how it originated?

Alan: It began as an opera project. It began as a project to develop the first civil rights opera. When we were first doing concerts, we didn’t have enough music to fill out a whole program so I decided we needed something to kind of compliment that and I created these mass meetings to fill out the concert program.

Basically, we take the audience back to 1963 and we’re using characters from the opera that we didn’t have music for. I would put them in this mass meeting where they would give speeches or they would be within the audience and would pop up and have things to say. It was very well received the first time.

JET: What does the Civil Rights era mean to you?

Alan: I just remember weeping through Julian Bond’s “Eyes on the Prize” in my college’s library and realizing how much had been sacrificed for me and so this is my way–I guess I’ve always wanted to try and pay the debt back.

I used to get down on myself and say, ‘Why wasn’t I born a generation before,’ and now I accept this is exactly where I was supposed to be.

JET: How much money have you raised so far?

Alan: I still have to get six cast members back and forth. We’re at least right around $10,000. We can do it really, for about $6,000 or $7,000, if we cut corners and people agree to kind of be paid later.

JET: What challenges are you experiencing and what happens if you don’t make your monetary goal for the entire project?

Alan: I’ve been reaching out to civil rights organizations that are working in contemporary issues with civil rights, to leadership, to professors. The people I’ve been reaching out to have a background or have some sort of connection with the movement, and also churches and what-not.

I’ve just been kind of astounded at the lack of support. I was pretty cynical because it has been a hard road for us all together, but I really thought that we’d have some people step up and it really hasn’t been the case.

If I have to go as a one man show, I’ll do it. I’ve already put one-hundred and seventy thousand dollars into it and [if we’re,] five or six thousand [dollars] short, that would be a tragedy on a mammoth proportion so I’m going to press on.

JET: Why is it so important to keep the project going? I know you want to expand what you’re doing later this year.

 Alan: I just want to do this while these people are still alive. That’s why there’s such an urgency. That’s why I’m pushing so hard. Each day that goes by they’re getting older and one thing I realize, a lot of them thought no one cared anymore and so I’m just happy to be able to let the people know that we do care.

Prelude to a Dream is free, but tickets are required. You can register HERE.

Marshall offers more information on his website HERE.  Details on how to DONATE.