'Our Time' Play Explores Winston-Salem's Racial Divide
The Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County and Triad Cultural Arts present “Our Time,” a one-act performance that tells the story of a conversation between two men — one Black and one white — who meet after two very different kinds of rallies. It’s the first play written by Lynn Felder, who has been covering arts in the Triad for decades as a journalist. She teamed with Solomon Caldwell, who graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts last year. He serves as the music director. WFDD’s Paul Garber spoke with Felder and Caldwell about their collaboration.
Felder on the move from non-fiction to playwrighting:
Part of being an artist is having an imagination, right, so I can make up stuff and I made up the conversation, but in order to have authentic voices, I interviewed people. So I use some of my journalism skills to create these imaginary characters. I interviewed people on both sides of the spectrum. And a lot of what you will hear in the dialogue is actually things that people said to me. It's crafted and it's dialogue. And it's not necessarily in the order that I heard it. But the Black character doesn't say anything that wasn't said to me by one of the people I interviewed. And the white conservative character does not say anything that was not a quote from somebody that I interviewed. It's not journalism. It's not history. It's made up. It's fiction, that's important to remember, but it's something that definitely could happen.
Caldwell on the role of music in the play:
I kind of wanted the music to just be almost a character within the play. You know, if that makes sense just really, really setting the mood and doing everything in support of the actors. As an audience member you might kind of infer things, and I think that's where the music could come in to really imply the action that's happening on stage... I really enjoy the improvisatory nature of it and just really, really being able to react to the actors and react to maybe the audience. And I think, you know, every rehearsal has been different because of the improvisatory nature so that's been really fun.
On the nature of their collaboration:
Caldwell: It's an interesting process coming from four years of very structured classical tradition to where you have a little bit more freedom to express your musical ideas. And I think that's been very challenging at times but rewarding. Working with folks like Lynn and our director Sharon Andrews have really made it easy and comfortable for me to just express musical ideas, but also support what's going on on stage.
Felder: And there are things, you know, there are little things that happen because we do things differently, but we override what might be called a generation gap because our passion for the subject matter is so strong. And I would love to see us finish what was started in the 60s. It was a fizzle. And I think a lot of good things came out of it. But now it's time to pick it up again and and get it done so that we have love and understanding and reconciliation finally, and reparations and whatever needs to happen to fix this mess that the country is in. And hopefully that is what art can do.
*Editor's Note: This script has been lightly edited for clarity.