Reconstruction Period Research Forum
Cross that River
Cross that River' gets national recognition
By Kirsten J. Barnes
Rebecca Gregory and Jane Garrett created "Cross that River," a 90-minute musical that re-enacted the oral arguments of Brown v. Board of Education. The production, which was performed six times on the floor of the Alabama Supreme Court in May 2004, received an Outstanding Law Day Activity Award from the American Bar Association.
"I was intrigued by the idea that there would be something to celebrate Law Day that students could relate to," said Gregory of the annual event traditionally celebrated on May 1.
The women wanted to portray the trial in a way students from the sixth to 12th grades could understand.
"Most people don't realize there are five cases in Brown v. Board of Education," Garrett said.
After the ball began rolling, Garrett and Gregory began calling on other people to add their artistic talents.
"They told me they had music, and I said, 'Absolutely no music,'" Lewis recalled. "Then they played the music and I said, 'We've got to have the music.'"
Lewis also changed his mind about the title of the play.
"Jane suggested that we change the name to 'Cross that River,' but I wanted it to be 'Slaying the Dragon' because that was something that Thurgood Marshall said in his arguments," Lewis said.
But after hearing one of the songs in the drama, he was in favor of the change.
The entire project took five months to complete and was performed six times on the floor of the Alabama Supreme Court in May 2004.
The American Bar Association Law Day Activity Competition is open to all state bar associations. Five winners were selected in November 2004 with the Outstanding Law Day Activity Award from the entries.
"We submitted a DVD of the performance and a written application (at the end of last year)," Garrett said.
In Salt Lake City in February, Alabama was recognized for the first time as a winner in this event.
Lewis and Tommy Klinner, co-chairs of the Law Day Committee; Doug McElvy, state bar president; and Garrett were there to receive the award.
While Garrett was surprised by the award, Gregory wasn't.
After watching the finished product, Gregory knew "it was good."
"It just all played out in the end," Garrett said. "It was meant to be."
The two novice playwrights don't have any immediate plans to create another drama, but they would like to turn "Cross That River" into a short story or some sort of teaching tool.
"In the classroom, it's good if you can make history real," Gregory said.