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"Colorblind" has insight on race relations in 20th century

For months, about 25 students and a handful of professors and staff at Palm Beach Community College have immersed themselves in issues of race and color. The results of their labor are now on display.

Their work is part of the national "Color Line Project," an effort by PBCC and five other institutions across the country to gather everyday people's experiences and use them to create art.

Through the art of storytelling, PBCC students have been listening to dozens of residents throughout Palm Beach County talk about their lives here between 1930 and 1970. In turn, students used some of those transcribed true tales to write their new theatrical production, Colorblind.

A sneak preview of the 90-minute show will be performed tonight by invitation only at the Duncan Theatre Stage West on the Lake Worth campus. It will formally open there with an 8 p.m. performance Thursday, continuing through April 1.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, another tentacle of the project will be a performance at the Duncan Theatre by actor-storyteller John O'Neal, founder of New Orleans-based Junebug Productions and creator of the Color Line Project.

O'Neal's one-man folkloric show -- Don't Start Me to Talking Or I'll Tell You Everything I Know: Sayings From the Life and Writings of Junebug Jabbo -- is part of an eight-month Color Line residency at the college.

The project also included a humanities seminar Thursday with scholar and author Joyce King, a professor and associate provost at Medgar Evers College in New York. King discussed the issue of collecting memories as a means of recording historical data.

The information gathered by PBCC participants -- and those from the other five institutions -- will be archived at Tulane University's Amistad Research Center in New Orleans. The point of all this, says Dawn Gibson-Brehon, manager of the Duncan Theatre and the college's project coordinator, is discussion -- about a serious, complex and controversial subject that touches all.

"We need to talk about race relations," Gibson-Brehon said. "Things are happening in our state, in our schools, in our own communities -- and nobody's really talking about it. This project forced people involved with it to do that."

She said she hopes it will goad audience members to do the same.

Besides using O'Neal's "story circle" technique, students studied the civil rights movement and used improvisation to weave one story from the dozens they assembled in October and November. They began work on Colorblind in January.

Long-term plans for the material include mounting Colorblind for high school audiences across the county.

Tickets for Colorblind's performances -- at 8 p.m. March 29 through 31 and 2 p.m. April 1 -- are $5 general admission seating. Tickets for O'Neal's 8 p.m. Saturday show are $25, $20 and $15. Call the PBCC box office at 561-439-8141.

Marian Dozier can be reached at or 561-243-6643.

Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Copyright 2001, Sun-Sentinel Co. & South Florida Interactive, Inc.

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