“Union: The Musical” event recap – Winston-Salem, NC

Friday, February 8, marked the first stop on the “Union: The Musical” national tour in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The production team loaded in at the Stevens Center at the North Carolina School of the Arts at 8 a.m. and began building the set. At 1 p.m., the band arrived for their sound check, and by 3:30, the team had started their tech rehearsal. When the doors opened at 7:30, 1,500 people flooded into the auditorium and filled every single seat.

 “Union: The Musical,” written and performed by native Memphians, is a cry of cultural awareness. It is an artistic representation of the Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968 in Memphis; Martin Luther King Jr.’s last campaign and one of the defining moments in American democracy. Through customized community engagement, it invites audiences to continue to transform individually and collectively for a more perfect union in our own time and in our own communities.

 The Forum on Faith & Culture partnered with our team and hosted an event following the performance. The next day, close to 1,000 people returned to Union Baptist Church, where they wrestled with these same issues of race, equity, justice and love in their own community. The institution had the support of more than 33 lead pastors and 14 church organizations and initiatives. By the end of the weekend, 266 people from 53 churches brought forward commitment cards to join efforts already in progress. Community members also graciously offered their homes and hospitality for our team as well, and the conversation that sprung from the performance was astounding.

 Sixty percent of the event tickets were issued by churches and faith organizations. Ten percent were distributed through institutions and key constituents, such as the Winston-Salem sanitation workers, NAACP and Urban League. Ten percent were individually distributed through committee, commission and Union Council members, and 20 percent were available to the community at large. Our team was thrilled to hear that every ticket had been accounted for, and the enthusiasm of the audience fueled the actors on the stage.

 A project of Clayborn Temple, “Union: The Musical” extends the work of healing across the lines of race and class beyond the historic space where the production was conceived. It is more than a musical; it is a necessary conversation that was embraced at its first stop. The power of performance art was transcendent in Winston-Salem, and the opportunity for positive change was undeniable.

 If you would like to bring “Union: The Musical” to your city, or learn more about the production, visit www.unionthemusical.com.

Beth Wilson