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  • Writer's pictureArts Angle Vantage Journalist

When theater shows hard-won change, seeing the present as a source of celebration can be hard

By Brayden West | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter

Central High School, Class of 2024

The play “Loving and Loving” has just ended. Lights begin to strobe. Dance music starts to play. And the audience is invited to the floor to celebrate with the cast and the creative directors. People pour onto the dance floor of the black box Victor Jory theater at Actors Theatre of Louisville. It becomes a celebration.

Shane Kenyon and Nemuna Ceesay in “Loving and Loving” at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Photo by Yunier Ramirez and Actors Theatre of Louisville.

On July 11, 1958, just five weeks after their wedding, Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple from rural Virginia, were arrested in their home for being illegally married. This and the rest of the Lovings’ emotional and thought-provoking story was portrayed in the play, directed by Acosta Powell, written by Beto O’Bryne, and developed by Meropi Peponides.

The play “Loving and Loving,” which ran from Feb. 7 through 18, gives people like the Lovings their recognition for their part in working towards milestones concerning interracial relationships. It’s important we appreciate these trailblazers who risked the status quo, their family and many other things so we could be where we are today. They were part in 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, which made laws banning interracial marriage illegal under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

When I was invited to see this play, I was not familiar with the Lovings’ story. My mother, surprised, said, “All interracial couples know about the Lovings.”

The production’s innovative format used video interviews that introduced me to the story and incorporated other interracial point of views. These interviews were of local residents who were children of interracial couples of all ages and from many different backgrounds including African, Asian and Hispanic.

Shane Kenyon and Nemuna Ceesay in “Loving and Loving” at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Photo by Yunier Ramirez and Actors Theatre of Louisville.

The performance also put the Lovings’ lives and marriage into perspective in relation to other events in the lead up to their case before the US Supreme Court, including President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and NASA’s first trip to the moon in 1969.

Just 11 years earlier, in 1958, when the Lovings married, only at 4% of Americans approved of interracial marriage. Comparing these today’s statistics, stories like the Lovings and others told with this production serve as a beacon of hope for me, other interracial children and couples.

Brayden West, a senior at Central High School, plays tennis and is a wrestler. He participated in the spring 2023 Community Arts Reporting Lab at South Louisville Community Center. The workshop was part of the citywide HeARTS Initiative supported by the Fund for the Arts and Metro Louisville Parks and Recreation.


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