‘White Woman in Progress’ at 7 Stages
“White Woman in Progress,” a one-woman show written and performed by Tara Ochs, revolves around racism against African Americans. Inspired by the real-life character she played in the film “Selma,” Viola Liuzzo, a white woman who was killed while fighting for civil rights, Ochs developed this piece to do her part in the fight for equality.
On the stage, Ochs discusses things she learned about the Civil Rights movement from her research for her role. Liuzzo, a nearly 40-year-old married white woman with five young children in 1965, drove from Michigan to Selma to join the Voting Rights march to Alabama’s capital, Montgomery. While driving a young black man back to Selma after the march, Liuzzo was shot and killed by the Ku Klux Klan. Ochs shares Liuzzo’s history and portrays the martyr as well as numerous other characters, including young children, teachers, a prejudiced white woman in Selma and the editor of Ladies Home Journal who wrote disparagingly of Liuzzo for going to Alabama. Ochs portrays those characters well, especially the editor, who appears to be a sly, catty Southern version of Donna Reed. As for portraying Ochs herself at different times in her own life, the actress tends to overact and talk at the audience rather than to them.
Ochs tells the audience she didn’t know much about the march before researching her movie role. Interspersed through the performance are fleeting, gut-wrenching video recordings of black people being disabused by authorities. At least there was that and the magazine journal that chilled my soul. The preachy content did not.
Ochs is an inprov performer and instructor at Dad’s Garage Theatre Company.
Directed by Heidi S. Howard, “White Woman in Progress” runs through April 9 at 7 Stages.