Acting Out Civil Rights History


This course explores the way theater artists document and interpret civil rights history through storytelling and dramatic art. In his work, instructor Mike Wiley transforms the details of historical events, and the people involved, into stories for the public, using theatrical performance as a tool to mirror society and stimulate social change. Students will delve into film footage, oral histories, newspapers, diaries, letters, and other archival sources, and view Mike Wiley’s performances as well as other local productions in person and on film. In addition, guest speakers and guest professors will visit the class, which will be an interdisciplinary study of American civil rights history through the lens of black religions, culture, history, aesthetics, politics, and their representations in black arts. Artists, activists, and those interested in documentary theater or civil rights are urged to enroll. (38 hours/All Levels)

Formerly of Theatre IV and Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, Mike Wiley has more than fifteen years of credits in theater for young audiences, as well as in film, television, and regional theater. An Upward Bound alum and Trio Achiever Award recipient, he is an M.F.A. graduate of UNC–Chapel Hill. As a playwright and actor, Wiley’s overriding goal is to expand cultural awareness for audiences of all ages. Through dynamic portrayals based on pivotal moments in African American history, he hopes to unveil a richer picture of the total American experience. His work has been featured at the National Black Theatre Festival and has been jury-selected for professional industry showcases by both the Midwest Arts Federation and the Southern Arts Federation. Wiley often portrays more than two dozen persons in a single “one-man” drama—his performances include Blood Done Sign My Name; Life Is So Good; Tired Souls: The Montgomery Bus Boycott; Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till; Jackie Robinson: A Game Apart; Brown v. Board of Education: Over Fifty Years Later; and One Noble Journey: A Box Marked Freedom. He was the Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in spring–fall 2010 and spring 2014.

Additional Information:
This 15-week hybrid course follows the Duke academic calendar and will combine continuing education students with undergraduates from Duke and other local universities. Continuing education students are required to complete all assigned coursework.

The first class will be held on Wednesday, January 13, and will run thereafter on Mondays from January 25–April 25. There will be no class on March 14.


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