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Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008 02:33 pm

Paint it Red: History made real, brutally honest

David Logan recalls the words of E.L. Rogers, the editor of Springfield's black newspaper, The Forum, in 1908:

"He said, 'You can either make history, or you can paint it red.' Make it or make it glaring."

That's what Logan, an assistant professor at Benedictine University-Springfield College, intends to do with Paint it Red, an upcoming production featuring monologues from historical figures involved in the 1908 Springfield Race Riots.

Logan, who co-authored the production with colleague Judi O'Brien Anderson, partnered with the City of Springfield's 1908 Race Riots Commemoration Commission and the Citizen's Club to blend historical accounts and narrative so audiences can experience the city's climate before and after the riots.

Most of its language comes directly from figures like Joe James, the black man accused of murdering Clergy Ballard, and Sarah Donnegan, widow of the slain William Donnegan, and will be "brutally honest."

"If they said it, we didn't change it, because that would be whitewashing history," Logan says. "The idea here is not to make history something soft and easy to swallow, but to make it very real and honest."

Logan also wrote narrative for the Citizen's Club mock trial of Abraham Raymer in August. While its goal was to provoke thought, Logan hopes Paint it Red will illicit emotions in a way only theater can.

"It's a very accessible approach," Logan explains. "You don't have to read through scholarly text, you can experience it. When you read something, it touches some people, but when you experience something, it strikes at the emotions.

"We're bringing history to people. All we ask of you is that you come to the theater, and we'll do the work."

Paint it Red begins 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, 420 S. Sixth Street.

Performances are free to the public, but donations to the Year of Reconciliation Scholarship will be accepted. –Amanda Robert

An excerpt from Paint it Red

"How Deep It Sits"
– Sarah Donnegan

They try to explain it away

as the price for sin —

drinking, gambling, and prostitution —

that this is a regrettable but effective

reform of a great evil

dug out from core of the black soul

thrown wicked on white folks.

Or it is the price for taking away work

in the mines —

Sustenance and warmth

dug out from the core of the black soil

thrown into the stoves of white folks.

But this sits deeper than a coal bed,

deeper than a disposition to drink

or a desire to gamble.

My husband could tell you

how deep it sits —

deep as a knife blade,

deep as a bullet's end,

deep as a rope's pull.

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