North Star, Victory Gardens Theater.

A hostile remark from a cabdriver triggers memories for Aurelia Taylor–memories of the long-ago summer of 1960, when her small southern hometown joined in the civil rights demonstrations proliferating in larger cities. Of her father and mother, desperately trying to protect the children from immediate danger as well as from future oppression. Of her best friend, Willie Joe, whose quick mind and quicker temper made him a target for violent retaliation. And of a long, solitary night journey that forced her to confront her fear of a darkness both literal and spiritual.

Victory Gardens’ world-premiere production of Gloria Bond Clunie’s North Star features a stellar cast under the deft direction of Sandy Shinner. But what most distinguishes this show from standard-issue we-shall-overcome pageantry are the remarkable performances by Thomasina Gross and Christopher Brown, two extremely talented actors whose emotional directness and vocal subtlety as the young Aurelia and Willie Joe vividly convey the excitement and uncertainty of coming of age in a time of sweeping change. “The little freedoms that we take [lead us] to the big freedoms,” recalls the adult Aurelia as she determines to take her daughter with her to the cab company the next day, there to teach her, as she herself was taught by the events of that crucial summer, the importance of small victories in the endless war for equality and freedom.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Suzanne N. Plunkett.