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A new voice 

Spirit Trickey-Rowan knows a lot about living history. Her mother is Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine. Spirit, who grew up in Canada, works as a Ranger at the Central High visitor's center where she's taught thousands of people the story of the Central High Crisis. She's produced documentaries and given countless speeches about her mother's experience. 

Her newest project takes a step away from the strictly historical and moves into the fictional. She says fiction is the best way to tell parts of the story that can't be fully known through documentation alone.  "One Ninth," a docudrama written from Minnijean's perspective as a 16-year-old girl, is her first attempt at telling a more subjective side of the story. 

The Arkansas Rep chose Trickey-Rowan as a participant in the "New Voices at the River" Playwriting Residency, which helped her define the story she began in a playwriting course at UALR. The Rep then won a National Endowment for the Arts grant to produce an educational program around the play. 

"One Ninth," directed by Xiaoqing Hu, opens at Wildwood Park for the Arts, Monday January 5 at 7 p.m. with a free public performance. The play will tour high schools and arts centers around the state through January and early February.

"The story starts off very innocent," Trickey-Rowan says, "Just two girls in Minnijean's bedroom trying on dresses before the first day at a new school. They are so excited about what they think they've been missing at their old school."

Their girlhood excitement contrasts with the reality of the girls' experience once they arrived at Central.  The text of the play centers on diary entries and letters, a way for the playwright to highlight the personal thoughts of children at the center of a national crisis.   She also explores the perspective of Minnijean's family, including her nine-year old sister. 

"When I asked my aunt how it affected her, she said 'I didn't have anybody to teach me to dance,'" Trickey-Rowan said.   "The course of her life was set forever." 
Working on the play was a long process that took many months to complete, most of which coincided with the 2008 presidential election.  Trickey-Rowan hadn't started work on the final draft of the play when she witnessed Barack Obama's election.  She'll be at the inauguration in January. 

"It was interesting," she said, "The play is set around this dream that hadn't been achieved.  Now that Obama has been elected, I'm inspired in a whole lot of different ways. We need to keep the dialogue going. The story has all the great teaching tools, including children as agents of change." 

Trickey-Rowan is currently a student at the Clinton School of Public Service.  She hopes to use her experience in the arts and public service to "combine my desire to teach social justice and the arts. I want to share that with youth, and explore their voices." 

"One Ninth," starts its school tour January 6 with a three-day residence at North Pulaski High School.   It will wrap up its eleven-stop tour at Central High with another tree day workshop starting February 9. 
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