Union at Clayborn Temple 

Memphis sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker were crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck on February 1, 1968. Less than two weeks later, 1,300 African-American men went on strike for fair wages, safe working conditions, and the simple recognition of their basic humanity. Few relics from the crossroads of labor and civil rights define the American condition as starkly as the printed signs reading, "I am a man."

To commemorate the strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis for the last time, the historically significant Clayborn Temple is staging three preview performances of Union, a new piece of musical theater currently being developed with a national tour in mind.

Anasa Troutman says Clayborn Temple has been on a two-year journey. Troutman's the CEO of Eloveate, a company working at the crossroads of art and community. She's shared the journey, working with a creative team to tell the story of the sanitation workers and other activists who gathered at Clayborn. "Now we're workshopping this musical in the space where it all began and inviting the community behind the scenes," she says. "And we want the community to get involved."

click to enlarge werecbox_union.jpg

Union's closing night has been imagined as an interactive event involving training before the show and a talk back with cast members and Black Lives Matter activists. "We're not just telling a story of the past," Troutman says. "We want to show how this story has shaped the future we're building now in Memphis and beyond."

Of course, it's also a story of Memphis' past and Troutman thinks the show has benefitted from deep connections to the source material.

"Two of our cast members are grandchildren of sanitation workers," she says. "One's grandmother still has an original 'I am a man' sign hanging in her garage."

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.




Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment



News Blog

Metal Museum Eyes Overton Park Expansion

News Blog

Group: 'Coliseum Is Officially Saved'

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies Beat Mavericks 98-88, Tie for #1 in West

News Blog

BREAKING: Fairgrounds TDZ Wins State Approval

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Fingertrick

From My Seat

Gameday Gratitude

We Saw You

Indie Film Fest, Grilled Cheese Fest, Adapt-A-Door and more!


More by Chris Davis

© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation