IRT’s INclusion Series continues with look at effects of racism on youth, communities

Joey Amato | January 22, 2020

This February, the Indiana Repertory Theatre will continue its long-standing history of bringing impactful books to stage with Christopher Paul Curtis’ award-winning youth historical fiction novel, The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963. Adapted by playwright Cheryl L. West, this Civil Rights-era family drama will run February 1 – March 1 on the IRT Upperstage.

Set in the 1960s on the edge of the actual historical tragedy of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 follows a fictional African American family as they travel from Michigan through the Deep South, where they end up navigating the prejudice and violence encountered by black people in Jim Crow America. Told through the perspectives of the three young children, this multigenerational story is both a warm look at family love and a moving exploration of the effects of racism on youth and communities.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 is focused on our nation’s fraught Civil Rights history, but it also provides opportunities for parents and children to discuss some of today’s most pressing issues: racism, class struggle, violence, and a culture of hate,” IRT’s Resident Dramaturg Richard J Roberts said. “At the same time, it demonstrates the enduring power of family, love, and community.”

Directed by Mikael Burke, this production is the second in IRT’s new INclusion Series, which celebrates diverse storytelling, and this season, focuses on the Native American, African American, and Chinese American experiences. By exploring aspects of United States history that are overlooked, lesser known, and still every bit as relevant today, like the Chinese Exclusion Act or the horrific acts of violence against African Americans, the series works to broaden perspectives on what it means to be an American—and all of the varying experiences that make up this country.

“While we know the facts of the Civil Rights movement, with its marches, sit ins, and ultimate violence, we rarely experience it through the lens of an actual family, who are trying simply to live their lives in tumultuous times, trying to teach their children values, even while they must protect them from those who wish them harm due to the color of their skin alone,” IRT’s Margot Lacy Eccles Artistic Director Janet Allen said.

Each public performance throughout the run will have a post-show discussion led by cast members, staff or various community organizations, including Central Indiana Community Foundation. In addition to these important discussions, the IRT is offering a Sensory Friendly performance on February 22 for those with autism or other sensory sensitivities. Continuing IRT’s mission to serve Indiana’s youth, this production will also welcome 12,000 students from across the state on weekdays, aligning art and theatre with education and Civil Rights history. 

Tickets to The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 are on sale now!

 Indiana Repertory Theatre, 140 W Washington Street, IRT Upperstage

RUN DATES:  February 1 – March 1, various times. The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, with no intermission. Tickets and performance schedule available at

TICKETS: Tickets start at $25. Click to buy.