Spirit Trickey-Rowan knows a lot about living history. Her mother is
Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine. Spirit, who
grew up in Canada, works as a Ranger at the Central High visitor’s
center where she’s taught thousands of people the story of the Central
High Crisis. She’s produced documentaries and given countless
speeches about her mother’s experience.
Her newest project takes a step away from the strictly historical and
moves into the fictional. She says fiction is the best way to
tell parts of the story that can’t be fully known through documentation
alone. “One Ninth,” a docudrama written from Minnijean’s perspective
as a 16-year-old girl, is her first attempt at telling a more
subjective side of the story.
The Arkansas Rep chose Trickey-Rowan as a participant in the “New
Voices at the River” Playwriting Residency, which helped her define the
story she began in a playwriting course at UALR. The Rep then won a
National Endowment for the Arts grant to produce an educational program
around the play.
“One Ninth,” directed by Xiaoqing Hu, opens at Wildwood Park for the
Arts, Monday January 5 at 7 p.m. with a free public performance. The
play will tour high schools and arts centers around the state through
January and early February.
“The story starts off very innocent,” Trickey-Rowan says, “Just two
girls in Minnijean’s bedroom trying on dresses before the first day at
a new school. They are so excited about what they think they’ve been
missing at their old school.”
Their girlhood excitement contrasts with the reality of the girls’
experience once they arrived at Central. The text of the play centers
on diary entries and letters, a way for the playwright to highlight the
personal thoughts of children at the center of a national crisis. She
also explores the perspective of Minnijean’s family, including her
nine-year old sister.
“When I asked my aunt how it affected her, she said ‘I didn’t have
anybody to teach me to dance,'” Trickey-Rowan said. “The course of
her life was set forever.”
on the play was a long process that took many months to complete, most
of which coincided with the 2008 presidential election. Trickey-Rowan
hadn’t started work on the final draft of the play when she witnessed
Barack Obama’s election. She’ll be at the inauguration in January.
“It was interesting,” she said, “The play is set around this dream that
hadn’t been achieved. Now that Obama has been elected, I’m inspired in
a whole lot of different ways. We need to keep the dialogue going. The
story has all the great teaching tools, including children as agents of
Trickey-Rowan is currently a student at the Clinton School of Public
Service. She hopes to use her experience in the arts and public
service to “combine my desire to teach social justice and the arts. I
want to share that with youth, and explore their voices.”
“One Ninth,” starts its school tour January 6 with a three-day
residence at North Pulaski High School. It will wrap up its
eleven-stop tour at Central High with another tree day workshop
starting February 9.