We had love, we had guns back in the theater

AMSTERDAM – After five years, Urban Myth and DeLaMar are co-producing the successful musical performance We had love, We had weapons back to cinemas. Due to the social developments of recent years, both co-producers feel the urgency of retelling this story of the American civil rights movement in the 1960s. An all-new star cast of Carolina Dijkhuizen, Hajo Bruins, Pearl Jozefzoon, Nyncke Beekhuyzen Tarikh Janssen and Leovegildo Vieira appear in this performance of Robert F. Williams, champion of equal rights for the African-American community. The musical performance, enriched with rhythm and blues from that time and own compositions, is based on the novel of the same name by Christine Otten On Thursday, November 24, the performance will be played in Cool Kunst en Cultuur – one of the last performances of the national theater tour.

We Had Love, We Had Weapons addresses current issues
The themes from the performance are now even more relevant than in 2017, when the performance was originally shown. The Black Lives Matters movement has exploded in recent years, as has international solidarity for the movement.

“We are constantly reassessing society. Where are we now? Who has (actual) participation? How do we talk about this with each other? What terms do we use?” – Jörgen Tjon A Fong, director

Input from the new cast
As a director, Jörgen Tjon A Fong always develops his theater performances in collaboration with the actors. Like the impact of Black Lives Matter developments, the new cast also affects this rerun. Together with the actors, he goes in search of the meaning that the themes in the performance have for them. They draw on their own experience to play their part. For the replay, that means it’s not a copy of the 2017 version.

“The show is a universal story. Just look at feminism, the gay rights movement or the right to abortion. It’s a story about the right to one’s own body. The right to be equal with everyone else.” – Carolina Dijkhuizen, actress (role Mabel)

About the show
It is 1961. In the strictly segregated southern United States, blacks and whites live apart from each other in bizarre detail. Here, Robert F. Williams, a key driver of the civil rights movement, fights for equality and against the aggression of the Ku Klux Klan and local authorities. He calls on the black community to arm themselves. Williams is soon considered a threat to the state, and he flees with his family to Cuba and later to China.

“I don’t just want to add new stories to the theater landscape, but also show different perspectives within those stories.” – Jörgen Tjon A Fong, director

The story of Robert F. Williams is told from the perspective of his son John. Robert is driven by his ideals and his passion, but in the drift he takes his wife and child with him. They support him wholeheartedly, but it comes with a lot of friction and sacrifice, because for Mabel, her family comes before the ideal or the ’cause’.

The music colors the performance
Music was an important form of expression during the civil rights movement. Where we now share our opinion on social media and other online channels, they used to write protest songs. The live music in the performance is a soundtrack from that period, composed by music producer and musician Jeroen van Olffen. In the context of the story, it sometimes becomes painfully clear where the songs come from. Johnny Rebel’s quirky songs Cajun Ku Klux Klan were a response to the civil rights movement, and Lead Belly Bourgeois Blues wanted to get rid of the Jim Crow laws that legitimized segregation. Contemporary songs are also part of the soundtrack, including Everthing I Wanted by Billie Eilish, for example. Eilish has said that the song came from her depression, from feeling trapped. But in the end, the song provides hope and results in a sense of community and togetherness. This describes exactly the situation in which John is telling this story from a contemporary perspective. Modern spoken word, gospel, rhythm & blues and modern songs in the performance all carry a sense of struggle.

Scenography and costumes
The stage and costumes were designed by the artist and designer Marga Weimans. For the costumes, she was inspired by contemporary black cultures, which can also be seen in Beyoncé Knowles’ imagery. In her Lemonade period, Knowles focused on anachronism in fashion in terms of her costumes and styling: a break with the chronological coherence of the time. In the show, we see characters in tuxedos and evening gowns that don’t match the era in which Robert and Mabel were active, but as Beyoncé says: ‘Here they’re all in couture. It is also about not knowing where you are. Are you present? Are you fit? Because that’s what the story is about—all the things you go through, people before you’ve gone through them, and at one point being usurped by the Ku Klux Klan. This is combined with contemporary iconography with the cardboard protest signs we know from the contemporary Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

About Urban Myth

The cultural organization Urban Myth gives untold stories a stage. Urban Myth chooses new perspectives on our shared Dutch history, encouraging collective thinking about identity. Who am I, who is the other? Who are we together? Urban Myth plays large and small theater performances throughout the country. In addition to theatrical performances, Urban Myth also creates idiosyncratic and diverse programming, from talk shows to collaborations with museums that transcend art disciplines.

We Had Love, We Had Weapons is a co-production with DeLaMar and co-developed by ITA. Tour planning is in the hands of Bos Teaterproduktioner.

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