Just in time for Valentine’s Day and Black History Month, the Gettysburg Community Theatre last night presented a sold-out reading of the play, “Loving,” by Peter Manos.
The play is based upon the real-life stories of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial Virginia couple, whose January 6, 1959 marriage in Washington D.C. violated the anti-miscegenation law in Virginia, where they were living. Their decade-long battle to marry would end up being heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, in the landmark case, Loving v. Virginia.
This case was decided in favor of the Lovings on June 12, 1967. In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that all anti-miscegenation laws violated the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
It was wonderful to see so many community members back for in-person, live performances at the Community Theatre. In his opening remarks, Executive and Artistic Director Chad-Alan Carr shared the message that live theater has returned to the Gettysburg Community Theatre. And he had much praise for the cast of Loving.
The modest cast of five actors included Jeb Beard, who portrayed Richard Loving. Beard captured the quiet strength and fortitude of his character. Beard said he had purchased the video of the 2016 film to prepare for his role, but said he had never watched the film before then.
Kierstan Belle, who played Mildred Loving, was convincing in depicting the playful, calming energy Mildred Loving embodied throughout her life. Belle said she has interracial family members and that many of those members, including a few in the audience, wouldn’t be alive today, if not for the courage of the Lovings.
Belle said many of her family members bear the last name of the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice at the time of the rulings, Earl Warren. Warren wrote in his decision that, “The 14th Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to may not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”
Tevis Bryant played the brother of Mildred Loving, He provided light moments of comical relief in a story that is part romance and part horror story. He also sang the musical numbers in the hour-long staged reading.
Scott Hartwig played double duty during the production. He narrated, providing pivotal historical context of the time and the troubling relationship this country has had with race, and portrayed ACLU lawyer, Bernie Cohen, who was sent to represent them after Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sent him the letter he had received from Mildred and Richard Loving.
Rounding out the cast was guitarist David Conklin who provided a gentle accompaniment to the vocals of Tevis Bryant.
Carr said the idea for the reading had been initiated in 2021 but due to Covid and casting setbacks was only now being shown. “It is such an important story to be told,” he said.
Gettysburg Mayor Rita Frealing presented Carr and the Gettysburg Community Theatre with a Proclamation declaring February 3rd as “Gettysburg Community Theatre Day in Gettysburg,” a gesture that resulted in Carr being overcome by the emotional force of the evening. Frealing also shared the impact this case had in her own personal life.
To close the discussion session, Chad-Alan Carr, still visibly moved by the evening, concluded with a message that he tells his “kids” in the theater, that “whatever you choose to be in life, choose to be kind.”
This was a fitting way for the evening to close and a bold way to welcome Black History Month 2023 to Gettysburg.
Elmer Shelton, freelance reporter:
I was born and raised in Selbyville, DE. In 1997, I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature, from Gettysburg College. And in 2003, I earned a Master of Social Work degree from Temple University. Prior to moving back to Gettysburg, in April of 2018, I had spent 13 years living in Portland, ME. - I am a fanatical tennis lover and an avid volleyball fan. I have been vegan and gluten-free for a decade and would describe myself as a hippie minimalist. I am employed by Pennsylvania Counseling Services, as a Forensic Outpatient Therapist. When I am not working, I am primarily engaged with my college fraternity, Alpha Chi Rho, where I serve as President of its Alumni Board. I am also the Recording Secretary for the Gettysburg Black History Museum, a position that has exposed me to the countless ways Black people have contributed to the town and state. Lastly, I am a member of the Gettysburg branch of Democracy For America, where I am learning more about how local and state politics work in PA.
Excellent piece, Elmer. Thank you for reviewing so beautifully this excellent performance.
Thanks Anne!! There are these wonderful little pockets within Gettysburg where wonderful work is being done. Unfortunately, it isn’t being given the time, nor attention it deserves. This platform does that!
Thank you, Jeff! I learned so much from attending! I remember seeing the movie when it was released in 2016; it was my first exposure to the story.
A very interesting review of a pivotal moment in our history. And a great cast. Scott Hartwig, longtime Park Ranger, is the gold standard for historical knowledge.
I thought he looked familiar! Lol! – As pivotal as that moment was, it seems mostly forgotten.
Thanks Elmer. This is an excellent and well written review of a play about an important piece of American history.