William DiCanzio's new play on Bayard Rustin and his important role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington is being performed in open readings in and around the city of Philadelphia this year.
Madeline Schaefer attended one of these readings and spoke with playwright William DiCanzio, the play's future director, Benjamin Lloyd, and the play's leading actor, Frank X, about the power and legacy of Bayard Rustin's message of nonviolence.
Madeline: The story goes that it wasn’t until a conversation between Martin Luther King, Jr. and African American Quaker and pacifist, Bayard Rustin, that King more fully committed himself to radical nonviolence. According to Rustin, nonviolence should not simply be a beautiful ideal, or a political tactic: It is a way of life.
William DiCanzio portrays this conversation in his new play, Rustin and the March, which I had an opportunity to see performed in a recent open reading. When Rustin finds a gun in King’s house after his home was bombed in 1955 during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he challenges King to put his message of peace into practice.
James Ijames (Martin Luther King, Jr.): What do you want me to do? Trust in God? Because frankly as the death of Jesus shows us sometimes God cares for us in ways we'd rather not be cared for, especially the ones he claims to love.
Brother Rustin, good and unschooled folks in my flock talk about the devil--he's real to them. You and I might more learnedly discuss systemic evil but it's no less real. As I'm getting to know much more than I'd like.
They shook the walls of this house; they wanted to devour my child.
Frank X (Bayard Rustin): Rumor says that the dynamite thrown that night might have been handled by Alabama's highest elected officials, and also by members of the Klu Klux Klan, who are often one and the same. Now that's systemic evil.
These guns can protect you against that about as well as they could against the bomb dropped in Nagasaki.
White Pines Productions, located in Elkin's Park, is hoping to stage the play in the coming year. To find out more about how you can help this play make it to the stage, visit whitepinesproductions.org.
More posts on Bayard Rustin:
Bayard Rustin and the March on Washington by Stephen McNeil
Resist and Love: Bayard Rustin and the gay marriage debate by Madeline Schaefer
Quakers and African Americans approach the New Jerusalem by Dan Seeger