September 9 - October 1, 2023 , Allen Theatre
written by George Stevens, Jr.
directed by Lou Bellamy
Run time: Approx. 2 hours and 10 minutes, including intermission
Advisory: Descriptions of racially charged hate and violence; Racial slurs and profanity. Recommended for ages 14+
The Story of “Mr. Civil Rights.” Armed with the US Constitution, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall devoted his life to championing justice and equality for all people. This biographical play spans his remarkable 58-year career while highlighting his warmth and sharp wit. A powerful tour-de-force about Marshall’s transformative journey from his early days as a young lawyer upending the landmark “separate but equal” decision to his time serving on the highest court in the nation. Starring film, TV, and regional theatre veteran Lester Purry, Thurgood is an inspiring tribute to a real American hero who embodied courage, integrity, and determination.
Welcome to Inside CPH for Thurgood. Click the icons and verbs below for some ideas on how you can engage more deeply with the themes and ideas of the play beyond the performance.
Special THANKS to our Productions Partners for our 2023-24 Season!
Our partners include:
Two prominent women in Marshall’s life - his mother and his first wife, Buster, sacrificed treasured personal effects to support causes that were bigger than themselves (the future and education of their child and the NAACP). When was a time someone sacrificed something for you? How did it help you and how did it make you feel?
Justice Thurgood Marshall worked in law for fifty years with the mission of justice and equality for all men regardless of their race. What is a cause or an injustice that lights a fire under your passions? What are ways you’ve begun (or can begin) to pursue a mission toward justice?
Justice Marshall gives credit to his father for teaching him how to argue and debate: “he challenged my logic on every point, even when we were discussing the weather.” Who are the role models in your life that have imparted core qualities of who you are? How have those qualities shaped your life?
Unconscious bias is something we all possess (literally without realizing), and confronting those biases is a process that takes time, focused effort, and self-led education. Challenging how firmly planted structures and ideas exist is a calling we can all undertake - whether that’s within ourselves, around our communities, at our places of work, or in our legal system. Justice Thurgood Marshall, beginning as early as his college years, was able to reinvent the way the law itself worked, ultimately presenting a case that reversed the long held and damaging precedent of “separate but equal” in Brown v. Board of Education.
Confronting our unconscious biases can literally change the world in which we live. In that, there is great power.
Lester Purry, the incredible talent portraying Justice Thurgood Marshall has mentioned a a documentary he watched on Netflix regarding this confrontation of unconscious bias.
The documentary is called Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, and in it, civil rights lawyer, Jeffery Robinson, illuminates the history of racial legal precedent leading to and during the lifetime of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Robinson addresses a wide range of topics historically, socially, politically, and culturally that contribute to the continued racially-divisive world we live in today. It’s well worth a watch!
This last year has proven to be a fascinating and highly active period for the Supreme Court. If you’d like to follow how the current justices align or differ across current cases, the National Constitution Center has created an actively updating list of Supreme Court decisions.
If you find yourself looking for a more general understanding of how the courts work, check out this great resource by the American Bar Association.
And for those who like to learn on the move, here are a few podcasts about the Supreme Court, some of the more recent socio-political cases to cross the bench, and general constitutional law.
“Dear Mom and Dad: I still have so much to learn. Professor Houston says a lawyer who is not a social engineer is a social parasite. I believe that is God’s truth.”
Through numerous organizations, you too can be of service to those whom Justice Marshall sought to protect and offer routes toward restorative justice. Below is a list of organizations that accept volunteers and support of all sorts - utilizing varying talents and skills for stewardship to incarcerated individuals. Some groups are spiritual in nature, some offer educational and tutoring opportunities, and some focus on more socially-minded rehabilitation. Take a look and see if there's an opportunity for you to contribute and make an impact.
Additional information for other non-profit organizations in our community can be found here.
“My Daddy…was the most insidious of my family of rebels. He taught me how to argue and debate - he challenged my logic on every point, even when we were discussing the weather.”
Looking at an issue from a new angle and being able to interrogate and debate it is an artform - and a heck of a useful one. Whether it’s politics, school work, team leadership, or even the weather, being able to examine a subject in creative ways and then convincingly support your perspective is a terrific skill to hone.
Grab a friend or family member (without fighting) and take opposing sides of an issue and see if you can debate your case. Maybe start out with the hard hitting questions like: “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” “Does pineapple belong on pizza?” Then work your way out to tougher fare.
Choose sides arbitrarily, and then switch.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Are you up to the test?
If that kind of mental agility and elasticity is fun for you, think about checking out speech and debate clubs at your school or in your community. If your school doesn’t have a speech and debate club, check out the free resources supplied by the National Speech & Debate Association for lessons and materials.
(Thurgood Marshall) most recently performed the role J.P. Madison in What I Learned in Paris. He performed the role of August Wilson in his one man show How I Learned What I Learned at The Edinburg Fringe Festival. He has performed in regional theatre across the country including a more
(U/S Thurgood Marshall) is no stranger to the Cleveland area. Performing in several theatres for fifteen years: Karamu House, Dobama Theatre, Ensemble Theatre, the Beck Center, and Cleveland Public Theatre. For the past three summers, Greg has portrayed the characters of Carl B. Stokes and Jessie Owens for the more
(Playwright) George Stevens, Jr’s interest in Thurgood Marshall began with a miniseries he wrote and directed, Separate But Equal, the story of the Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case on which Marshall was the lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Thurgood is his first play. Stevens more
(Director) is the founder and artistic director emeritus of Penumbra Theatre. During his forty-three year tenure, Penumbra evolved into one of America’s premier theaters dedicated to dramatic exploration of the African American experience. Under his leadership, Penumbra grew to be the largest theater of its kind in America and more
(Scenic Designer) CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE: Steel Magnolias, Radio Golf, Raisin in the Sun, Dream a Little Dream, Dinner Party, Dirty Blond, Guardsman, Emancipation of Valet de Chambre, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Russian Romance, Dracula, Diary of Ann Frank, Oleanna, African Company Presents Richard III. REGIONAL THEATRES: more
(Lighting Designer) has designed 15 shows for Cleveland including Dream A Little Dream, Touch the Names and Radio Golf. Broadway: It Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues; Off-Broadway: Hank Williams: Lost Highway; The Immigrant; Almost Heaven: John Denver’s America. He has designed lighting for: Guthrie Theatre, The Denver more
(Sound Designer) Cleveland Playhouse debut. Broadway: The Cottage, Ohio State Murders, Topdog/Underdog, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Was Enuff , Clyde's, Pass Over, Other Desert Cities. Off Broadway: Hamlet (Shakespeare In The Park); Heroes Of The Fourth Turning, Corsicana (Playwrights Horizons). Pipeline, (Lincoln Center); more
(Projections Designer) is delighted to be working with Cleveland Play House. A Columbus native, has had the opportunity to locally work with institutions such as Shadowbox Live and The Ohio State University. His regional work includes projects with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, more
(Stage Manager) is a lifelong Oregonian who last was in Ohio in 1991 as the PR director for the Columbus Horizon basketball team of the now-defunct CBA. Recent stage management credits in Portland include: In the Name of Forgotten Women at CoHo Productions; The Evolve Experience with The Red more
(Stage Manager) is pleased to rejoin Lou Bellamy and Lester Purry in Thurgood, which they originally created at Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York in the Fall of 2018. A member of Actors’ Equity Association since 1974, Mr. Toothman recently retired after 15 years as a Company Stage more
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