AAPEX Playwright banned in Atlanta — Calvin Ramsey — AAPEX

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

AAPEX Playwright banned in Atlanta

Something we missed last summer:

Atlanta Journal Constitution Main Edition
Monday, 7/27/2009
Headline: No ban on author's success
Plug pulled on play about KKK rallies in Stone Mountain.
Jeffry Scott / Staff
Four summers ago Atlanta playwright Calvin Ramsey did what he does as a playwright. He took the history of race relations between blacks and whites in America and gave them a stir to make people remember things they'd just as soon forget. His play, Shermantown --- Baseball, Apple Pie, and the Klan, was about Ku Klux Klan rallies staged every Labor Day for decades, with burning crosses and fiery oratory booming over loudspeakers, in a pasture in the town of Stone Mountain. The Stone Mountain theater that had agreed to stage Ramsey's reading of the play, ART Station, pulled out at the last second because theater director David Thomas said he feared it would disrupt race relations in the town, which has a population that is 70 percent black. Thomas said a monologue in the play was "not only racy, it's inciting and slanderous about Jews and Catholics." Ramsey countered that the play was historically accurate and the monologue no more provocative than the hate-filled speeches that went on, without censor, every year at the event until the rallies stopped in the early 1990s.
The theater didn't back down, so Ramsey ended up reading "Shermantown" at a local church.

These days the 59-year-old former insurance salesman still lives in Atlanta and is plugging away and enjoying growing success as a playwright and author.

And he's still plying the complexities of black and white relations he explored in earlier plays The Green Book, Canada Lee and Bricktop, which examined the plight of blacks in America before integration.

He's been offered a movie option on The Green Book, a play based on the guide black travelers used in the days of segregation to find lodgings and restaurants that would accept blacks, but he hasn't signed because he wants to keep editorial control.

"I don't want to make a deal just to make a deal, " Ramsey said in an interview last week at a downtown coffee shop.

He's sold a couple of children's books yet to be published. His play about J. Marion Sims, an Alabama doctor who performed experimental gynecological surgeries on black slave women on plantations in the 1840s, Damaged Virtues: A Cry From Within, is tentatively scheduled for production in February at La MaMa E.T.C., an experimental theater in New York.

"His story is a fascinating one, " said Ramsey, who first learned about Sims a couple of years ago. "He performed these experiments, doing surgery on one woman 34 times, and through the techniques he developed he became known as 'The Father of Gynecology.' "

In the play the three slave woman Sims experimented on, and later wrote about, Lucy, Betsey and Anarcha, come back from the dead "to tell their side of the story."

The play is set in Central Park in New York, where a statue of Sims now stands, and that statue comes to life in Ramsey's play so the doctor can "defend himself."

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