The Me Nobody Knows

Event Attributes

Venue: 

Alvin Mayes and Scot Reese, co-directors
L. Richmond Sparks, musical director
 

Stage Manager - Cindy King; Costume Designer - Robert Croghan; Scenic Designer - April Joy Tritchler; Lighting Designer - Brittany Shemuga; Projections Designer - Hannah Marsh; Sound Designer - Patrick Calhoun

Portrayed within the span of a single day, The Me Nobody Knows poetically examines the aspirations and fears of a multi-racial cast of young people. Inspired by actual writings of students, their stories are universal. In these students’ struggles lies their hope, and ours. They are the voices of change. The musical score combines rock music, classical fugues, rap and jazz that inspire passion and transformation.

Music by Gary William Friedman
Lyrics by Will Holt
Adapted by Robert Livingston and Herb Schapiro
Based on the book The Me Nobody Knows, edited by Stephen M. Joseph
Additional lyrics by Herb Schapiro
Arrangements and orchestration by Gary William Friedman

The Me Nobody Knows is presented through special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC.
The Me Nobody Knows is Tony-nominated and OBIE Award-winning
Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Read the Review in DC Metro Theatre Arts about the opening of The Me Nobody Knows. Click here.

Read the Review in MD Theatre Guide. Click here.

Read the review the The Gazette. Click here.

Read the article on the production in The Diamondback. Click here.

Read the article on the production in Writer's Bloc. Click here

Program Notes

The production you are about to see, The Me Nobody Knows, has an interesting history. In actuality, the piece did not originate in the theatre, but rather it is based on a book titled The Me Nobody Knows: Children’s Voices From the Ghetto (1969). Moreover, The Me Nobody Knows was not penned by a single individual, nor do the prose and lyrics represent the joint efforts of a small cadre of professional artists. On the contrary, The Me Nobody Knows animates the words, feelings and experiences of 200 students from Harlem, New York. Under the guidance and tutelage of several teachers, these students (ranging from the ages of 12 to 18) were encouraged to write down their deepest thoughts and concerns. The students’ teachers were well aware that many of their students were struggling with some of the worst consequences of urban unrest. Poor housing and nutrition, inadequate healthcare, deficient educational resources, dysfunctional families, drugs, crimes and violent altercations were among these debilitating circumstances. The teachers also knew that without some sort of creative or  productive outlet their students were at risk to become completely victimized by these issues. Without intervention, these students were ripe to become statistics in a crippling cycle of poverty and despair.

Stephen M. Joseph, one of the teachers and the editor of The Me Nobody Knows, created the book by asking his students to respond to questions that addressed four dimensions of their identity. He asked them to describe “how [they] see [themselves], [their] neighborhoods, the world outside, and the things [they] can’t see or touch.” Joseph understood that our personal relationships (our families, friends, teachers, peers, etc.) help mold us with laughter, hugs and love — and that the lack of this support could be equally impactful. He recognized that our communities and their institutionsshould be empowered to provide useful resources; that schools should provide skills and training for career building and personal  growth. Joseph’s questions were also guided by the belief that our dreams hold our unlimited desires and give us vision and purpose. Lastly, he wanted his students to think about the forces beyond our tangible reach — he wanted them to have a sense of faith and to remind them that there is more in the world than the single self. Joseph and his fellow teachers believed that the exploration of these personal dimensions could help unlock the innermost thoughts of their students, thereby helping them to discard their mental obstacles while also helping them to unleash their hope and full potential.

Inspired by the heartfelt prose of the Harlem students, adaptor/director Robert Livingston, along with Gary William Friedman (music), Will Holt (lyrics) and Herb Schapiro (lyrics), decided to transform Joseph’s edited volume to a staged musical that debuted off-Broadway in 1970. This highly acclaimed production moved on to Broadway in 1971, earning five Tony nominations and two Drama Desk Awards.

Like the original volume of prose, the award-winning musical, The Me Nobody Knows, features individual characters who search for their voice using Joseph’s “four dimensions” as their guide. The characters use their personal narratives to express their confusion and anger, as well as to realize their hopes. They fight back and attempt to stand tall against adversity. Despite the odds against them, the characters courageously choose to define themselves and not let their surroundings fully define them. The masks come off, and the audience gets to see what’s underneath the surface. The strong. The smart. The survivors.

For the University of Maryland’s production of The Me    Nobody Knows — staged 44 years after the musical’s original debut — directors Scot Reese and Alvin Mayes, along with music director Dr. L.D. Sparks, teleport the musical’s original characters and setting from the 1970s to the 2010s. Strikingly — and with a due note of mixed feelings — this shift is a seamless one. While the central prose in The Me Nobody Knows was birthed in the 1960s, we are faced with telling truths when we compare past circumstances to those we face in the present.

During the 1960s the world was embroiled with the Cold War and the Vietnam War. We were struggling with an oil and energy crisis, and an economic recession. Race relations were tenuous, and debates regarding civilrights raged. And so, where are we now? It is 2014 — what has changed? Forty-four years later our nation is wrestling with the War on  terrorism; trying to rebound from a Global Financial Crisis; and we are still entrenched in civil rights debates that include — and go beyond — issues of race. Yes, the world has taken many great steps forward. The world has also taken steps backwards, circling around the same  problems. Thus, The Me Nobody Knows not only serves as a powerful piece of musical theatre but also as a powerful reminder: there is still, and perhaps there always will be, work to be done.

— Cindy King
Research Dramaturg

 

Me Nobody Knows