University of Richmond and Armstrong High School students to perform docudrama about high school's history

April 11, 2018

University of Richmond and Armstrong High School students will take the stage to perform “The Spirit of Armstrong,” a documentary drama highlighting the history of Richmond’s Armstrong High School. The performance is April 19 at 6 p.m. in Armstrong High School’s auditorium.  

This project stems from a partnership between students in “Documenting a Historic Black High School: A Richmond Community Project,” a UR community-based learning course taught by professors Laura Browder and Patricia Herrera and Armstrong’s Leadership Program. Students from both groups have researched archives, listened to oral histories and produced original poetry to write and perform a play about the school’s history as Richmond’s oldest predominantly black high school.

“Our students delve into everything from nineteenth-century newspaper articles to the latest school budgets,” said Laura Browder, Tyler and Alice Haynes professor of American studies. “One of the play’s most powerful scenes, ‘63 cents’ comes from our students’ discovery that Armstrong receives an average of 63 cents per square foot per year for maintenance when the industry standard is $3.40 and Chesterfield County spends $3.89.”

The performance, which is free and open to the public, will be directed by Brooklyn Art Exchange’s José Joaquin Garcia.

“Many of these students have never performed before,” said Patricia Hererra, associate professor of theatre. “Through performance they learn the notion of vulnerability and how opening up and embracing this vulnerability can build authentic relationships that foster growth and change.”

Browder, Herrera and their students have produced documentary dramas and museum exhibitions about Richmond civil rights history for the past eight years. Their 2016 performance, focusing on gentrification in Church Hill, was staged at Armstrong for an audience of 300.

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