2020-2021 Season,  North Star

Is the Past Truly in the Past?

by Sydney Southwick, dramaturg

In March of 2020, BYU canceled classes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, many students felt like celebrating when a few extra days were added to their typical one-day spring break. A few days were soon extended to “two weeks to stop the spread” as classes moved completely online for the rest of the semester. Flattening the curve began to feel impossible as more and more events were canceled without a rescheduled date in sight. The conversations about the global pandemic changed. People started to realize that we were living through history; it was happening right before their eyes. 


The realization that future posterity would be asking what it was like to live through the year 2020 was amplified by the increase in Black Lives Matter protests during the summer. Masked demonstrators protested in the city streets of the United States (including Provo, UT) and other parts of the world. Watching the news was met with mixed feelings of hope and fear.

Photo by Life Matters from Pexels


Photo by Life Matters from Pexels

The idea of living through history is not a new feeling for Gloria Bond Clunie, playwright and director of BYU’s North Star. 

As a small child growing up in North Carolina in the sixties, I faintly remember the ‘colored’ signs and vividly recall my mother refusing to eat in a store where blacks had to stand and whites could sit at the counter.
Gloria Bond Clunie


On February 1, 1960, four university students (Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, and Joseph McNeil) sat down at a segregated lunch counter and asked to be served in Greensboro, North Carolina, sparking the sit-in protests that spread across the South. This was only sixty-one years ago. 

Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, and Joseph McNeil sitting at the segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter


Because of the many brave activists of the fifties and sixties, like these four men, much progress has been made in the area of civil rights. But if one thinks about the entire history of humankind, the Civil Rights Movement is not far in the past. Many people alive today can still remember what life was like during these events. Just how far in the past is the past?


In North Star, Aurelia looks back on her past to help her deal with racism in her present life.


I can’t believe he called my daughter…It was under his breath, but she heard it. A whisper, but in the dark it echoed down the street like cold wind on a mission. And she heard it. I saw it in her eyes, and she sees in mine…It rattled something deep. Something I’d put away a long time ago. She’s waiting. What do I do? What do I say?

– Aurelia, from North Star


Join Aurelia on her journey to the past during BYU’s production of North Star on March 4-6 at 7:30 PM. 


Photo References:

Greensboro News Photo. “Civil Rights Movement Archive Freedom Movement Photo Album.” Civil Rights Movement: Photos and Images of a Peoples’ Movement., web.archive.org/web/20201117182847/www.crmvet.org/images/imghome.htm. 




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