MCCC Theatre Student Honors
Rosa Parks in One-Woman Show

1/22/09


Activist Rosa Parks has been widely recognized for her ground-breaking role in the American civil rights movement. Her legacy is being kept alive for a new generation by Ewing resident Doreen Griffin, a Theatre student at Mercer County Community College (MCCC).

Griffin pays tribute to the civil rights icon in her one-woman show, "She's Gotta Ticket to Ride: An Interview with Rosa Parks," which she has presented at numerous venues since 2006. Recently, Griffin was invited to perform the show at the Rosa Parks Museum and Library at Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama, on Dec. 1, 2008 - the 53rd anniversary of the day that Parks famously refused to give up her seat on the bus.

According to Griffin, the museum and library complex is located on the street where Mrs. Parks made her historic act of defiance. "The library's director, Georgette Norman, pointed out that it was very significant that I, at the same age as Mrs. Parks, gave the tribute on the exact day in virtually the same place. The entire experience has been life changing for me," Griffin said. Her performance was covered by the local media in Montgomery.

Doreen Griffin as Rosa Parks

Petite and meticulously dressed in Parks' style, Griffin recounts Parks' personal history, values and goals in her 60-minute performance. Griffin explains that the show is a labor of love that she wrote with fellow thespian Tony Miskowski, whom she met through their New Jersey employee union, the CWA Local 1033. They spent months conducting research on Parks, watching civil rights movement footage, and posing questions to friends as well as themselves about Parks' legacy. "We asked, 'If you could ask Rosa Parks a question what would it be?' We built the questions from there and the answers from facts obtained from our research." A photo slide show accompanies the dialogue, while music written for and about Parks frames the entire show. The pair even ordered clothing replicating the time period.

Griffin explains that the decision to appear as Parks alone on stage for the duration of the performance was intentional. "The focus is on the most important elements - Rosa, the slide show, and the music," she explained. Sometimes the unseen interviewer is Miskowski; other times friends or relatives step into the job. Griffin notes that the show can be shortened for younger audiences.

Griffin debuted "She's Gotta Ticket" before an audience of union members during Black History Month in 2006 and reprised her performance before an audience at MCCC. She has also taken the show on the road -- to elementary schools, high schools and churches in New Jersey and elsewhere including the AME Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., the National Women's Convention in Washington, D.C., and at a fundraiser for the children of Monrovia, Liberia, in Langhorne, Pa. While on a trip to Orangeburg, S.C., as a Barack Obama campaign worker, she donned her Rosa Parks attire and held a sign stating, "Rosa Parks Loves Barack Obama." Most recently she presented "She's Gotta Ticket" at the Martin House Learning Center in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, a performance that was covered by News 12 New Jersey.

Griffin, who in her day job is a paralegal in the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, explains that she was inspired by the extensive news coverage surrounding Parks' death in 2005. "When the media reported about Mrs. Park's legacy as she lay in state in the Capitol rotunda, I was so moved," Griffin said. Miskowski, an assistant curator at the New Jersey State Museum, was similarly affected. They hatched the idea to create a theatrical tribute to Parks from there.

First attending MCCC for several paralegal courses in 2000 and 2001, Griffin credits Mercer for playing a pivotal role in nurturing her love for acting, which lay dormant after she graduated from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. "I've always wanted to become an actress, but it did not pay the bills," she said. "MCCC is fabulous. All of MCCC's faculty and staff, particularly Theatre Program Coordinator Jody Person, go above and beyond the call of duty to help you discover and strengthen your talents. It's very important to create your own opportunities. Don't just sit and wait for fate." She notes that Person assisted with the development of her piece and that she used theater space at MCCC for rehearsals.

Griffin will stage two performances of "She's Gotta Ticket to Ride" during Black History Month. She has been invited by News 12 New Jersey to perform for the station in the early spring. All performances are for educational and entertainment purposes and presented free of charge. For more information, call 609-540-3298.

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