The Hillsboro Story
October 13, 2010 - October 30, 2010
By Susan Banyas
Directed By Susan Banyas

The Hillsboro Story is a unique performance piece integrating movement, monologues, and visual images, backed by an evocative original music score by jazz composer, David Ornette Cherry. 

It tells the story of the first test case for Brown v. Board of Education (May 1954) in the North, in the playwright’s hometown of Hillsboro, near the Mason-Dixon Line.  A third-grade witness the local “colored school” in flames and the five African-American mothers who took legal action, Banyas returned home in 2003 as a cultural detective interviewing more than 50 community members and Civil Rights leaders to create this engaging theatrical piece. 

This work is more than a simple play. It is the confluence of many artists and community reflecting on memory, historical facts and storytelling to invite audiences as creative activists and collaborators in upholding civil rights and shaping the future. 

“This is not just a theater piece but a constant dialogue, and engaging and meeting of minds and personal stories,” says playwright and director Susan Banyas.  In Ohio, Banyas talked with lawyers, mothers, children, teacher and women who were cleaning the houses of the white women. “There was this whole beehive of activity that happened completely under the radar of white people, these memories are active not passive - we dignify our lives through our reclamation of history,” said Banyas.

As part of its ongoing commitment to education and outreach, Artists Rep will be touring this production of The Hillsboro Story to schools and community centers throughout Oregon and Ohio.  This two-week run at Artists Rep launches the tour and gives our community an opportunity to experience this exciting new work. 


Susan Banyas
LaVerne Green
Jennifer Lanier
K.B. Mercer 

Music composed by David Ornette Cherry
Choreography by Gregg Bielemeier
Scenic Design: Jeff Seats
Costume Design: Rusty Terwelp
Lighting Design: Peter West
Stage Manager: Tozzi Laney

Music composed by David Ornette Cherry
Choreography by Gregg Bielemeier


The piece was first presented as a monologue at an oral history conference, co-sponsored by Columbia University and NYC Library of Performing Arts. During a 2009 summer residency at Artists Rep, the play was developed into an ensemble work-in-progress.  In 2010, The Hillsboro Story was Artists Rep’s entry in the Fertile Ground Festival of New Works in January and then traveled to Hillsboro, Ohio in April.


Every donation will help us share the important content of this work to schools and communities around the country. Click here to give

Artists Repertory Theatre and The Hillsboro Story playwright Susan Banyas invite those who have seen the play to a community forum to discuss personal responses to the production and the issues that it raises.

When: Saturday November 6, 2010 , 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm 

Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, 3138 N Vancouver Ave, Portland, OR 97227 

Moderators: Pastor  J.W. Matt Hennessee - Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church & Jo Ann Bowman - Former Oregon State Representative 

Panelists: Susan Banyas – Playwright, The Hillsboro Story; David Ornette Cherry – Composer, The Hillsboro Story; Allen Nause – Producing Artistic Director, Artists Repertory Theatre; Rev. Renee Ward – Associate Pastor, Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church  

The artistic team of The Hillsboro Story and Artists Repertory Theatre are especially interested in feedback from the African American community about the play.

Check out the video trailer here.

Director, cast and composer talk about their journey on The Hillsboro Story with Dmae Roberts on KBOO's Stage and Studio. Click here to listen to the segment.

Jazz Scene interviews Composer and Sound Designer David Ornette Cherry. Full interview can be read beginning on Page 4 here. 

Susan Banyas’ artistic roots as an improviser, dancer, and experimental performance artist led to collaborations through SO&SO&SO&SO Inc.  She has an MA in performance and documentary art, ran  Dream Well Studio for 12 years that featured experimental, low-tech dance and performance, raised her son, Jack, and developed her teaching forms -- Everyday Dancing, Soul Stories, Performance Lab, Who Owns Your Mind? (media literacy) -- which she has taught in studios, universities, and residency programs.  Recent performance projects, No Strangers Here Today, and The Hillsboro Story, are centered in Highland County, Ohio (where she was raised) 100 years apart and dance between memory and American history. She has toured No Strangers around the country with collaborator, David Ornette Cherry.   Everyday Dancing, A Dance Lecture, originally delivered at an academic conference, is in development as a dance-story quintet and photography project,  titled It's Been a Busy Week.

Post-show discussion after each show as Act II
Hosted by a guest moderator with Susan Banyas and cast. 

October 16 6:30-7:15, Artists Repertory Theatre
Self-Enhancement, Inc, sounds of Soul Mass Choir, directed by Cinda Jackson 

October 23 6:30-7:15, Artists Repertory Theatre
David Ornette Cherry Quartet
Expressions of Energy 


Two high-school teachers at Portland Public Schools developed a 5-week curriculum based on the script of The Hillsboro Story for 11th grade language arts students.  This curriculum is one of several developed over the past summer and has been added to a list of curricula teachers can access.  It is not required curriculum, but it is one of several choices for teachers to choose from and adapt to their needs.  It is designed to use with just the script, but can be enhanced by a performance. Matinee school performances are scheduled for this purpose. Roll out of this curriculum took place on August 26. For more information: 

As part of our ongoing commitment to education and outreach, Artists Rep will be touring this production of The Hillsboro Story to schools and community centers throughout Oregon and Ohio.  Portland Public Schools has developed curriculum using the script of The Hillsboro Story with performance centered enhancement options. Additionally, The Hillsboro Story will begin a national tour in March with scheduled performances at: the Brown Foundation Education Site, National Parks, in Topeka, Kansas on March 6, 2011; the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, in Cincinnati, Ohio on March 11, 2011.


US Bank


Ben Earle for the Emmett Chase & Peter Evans Theater Education & Outreach Fund


Oregon Cultural Trust

The Reviews...

"It is one of the most important pieces of theater presented in Portland this year." - Marty Hughley, The Oregonian.
Read the full review here.

"Artist Rep's lo-fi production is confidently rooted in the strength of its story and the skills of its four-woman cast," - Portland Mercury.
Read the full review here.

"...understated, spacious melodic builds that slide together; fusing interwoven threads from the various musical patterns captured in his mind," said OPB Music. Read the full review here.

"Packed with heart and historical detail, it's a remarkably rewarding piece..." - Marty Hughley, The Oregonian

"There are few props and the narration is straight-to-the-point, but this is a powerful play. All four female performers’ acting is superb..." - Willamette Weekly

"The Hillsboro Story is worth telling, and seeing. I hope the play has a healthy future in schools and youth theaters — not that it isn’t a good piece of theater for adults (it is), but because still-developing hearts and minds in particular need to understand this vital part of their heritage," Bob Hicks,

Tickets for Artists Rep's 2014/15 season are on sale now! Click on the link below to purchase or call our Box Office at 503.241.1278.