Remembering the Hough Uprising of 1966 as 'Incendiaries' Returns

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Last summer to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Hough Uprising, Cleveland Public Theater staged a new production by the Ohio City Theatre Project - Incendiaries - based on the history of those deadly Cleveland riots of July 1966. 

To help capture the mood of the time, director Pandora Robertson enlisted Sherrie Tolliver, the daughter of attorney Stanley Tolliver, who represented people affected by the uprising as dramaturg.

"I was a child, but because my father was the lawyer for the [Henry] Townes family and for [black nationalist] Lewis Robinson I heard the conversations on the phone, saw them on the television everyday and heard about it on a daily basis because it was part of my father's life, " Tolliver said.

Robertson felt there was enough material in the story to fill a television miniseries so she needed to discover the story's personal drama to create a narrative for a sixty-minute play.

"I tried to answer the question, 'how could this happen to a neighborhood?'  But try to make it dramatically compelling so it's not a history lesson and just a lot of exposition," Robertson said.

Tolliver helped Robertson frame the story within the community both before and after the riots took place.

"She asked me to reach out to the community to other people who'd lived through it.  We went together to speak to Mansfield Frazier who is living in Hough now and has a vinyard in Hough now and talked about [the late council woman from Hough] Fannie Lewis and the re-emergence and revitalization of Hough," Tolliver said.

Robertson structured the play so it could be staged easily at places like schools and libraries with a minimalist set.

"It doesn't require a lot of lights or a lot of sound so that it could be taken into a neighborhood to be performed and provoke a dialogue about this incident.  So we can pick up the table and the three chairs and take them anywhere and peform the piece," Robertson said.

The Ohio City Theatre Project stages an abridged version of Incendiaries at the Martin Luther King, Jr. branch of The Cleveland Public Library Saturday February 4 at 11 a.m.

Listen to Dee Perry's interview with Pandora Robertson and Sherrie Tolliver Wednesday, February 1 at 1:33pm on 90.3 on Here and Now featuring The Sound of Applause or the above podcast.







Pandora Robertson, director

Sherrie Tolliver, dramaturg

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