Random Acts” is a new play by Magic Window Productions by Obie Award winner playwright Renata Hinrichs. The play will run from February 24 to March 2, 2018, at TBG Mainstage Theatre in Manhattan.

The play is based in the south side of Chicago in the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement. When a five-year-old white girl experience lasts an act of kindness, the goodwill goes a long way. “Random Acts” is a powerful play that earned the Best Storytelling Script Award from the United Solo Festival in 2014; it was also published by Indie theater Now.

Performer Renata Hinrichs, who is a founding member of Big Dance Theater, has performed all over the world and is excited to partake in this performance which she recently discussed via an exclusive interview.

Theater, inspiration and the Civil Rights Movement

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get into the theater and what is it about dance that so appeals to you?

Renata Hinrichs (RH): Dance is my first love. I was always moving as a kid. My mother took me to see “The Nutcracker” at age seven when we were living in Chicago, and I discovered that you could train to be a dancer. I moved to New York at age nineteen on a dance scholarship. I found my way into the theater through dance. I got injured while in a ballet company, and while recovering I was introduced to modern dance, then dance-theater and eventually more traditional theater.

Dance allows me to explore ways to communicate without words.

MM: How did you get the inspiration for “Random Acts” and what about its plot do you find most appealing and/or interesting?

RH: The play is based on events from my life. The inspiration for the play was the memory of a teenage boy who helped me on my way to kindergarten.

He stepped in when I was getting attacked for speaking to a classmate. I am white, and my classmate was black, and it was my first experience with the rules of the streets on the South Side of Chicago in the 1960s. This boy’s kindness and encouragement are what I came to realize had a profound impact on me and my family’s life.

MM: Why did you decide to set this play in the 1960s, amid the Civil Rights Movement, and why did you place it in the city of Chicago?

RH: My father was a Lutheran Minister, and his first job after graduating from the seminary was at a church on the South Side of Chicago in the 1960s. This church was located on the dividing line between a black and white neighborhood. The directive of the American Lutheran Church at that time was to find ways to support the Civil Rights movement. The play is told mostly from the child’s perspective as my family, and I lived through this transformative time in our history.

Kindness, characters, and other projects

MM: Has your life ever been positively impacted by a completely random act of kindness?

RH: Yes. Many, many times beginning with the teenage boy who rescued me when I was five.

MM: What were the challenges of writing and staging “Random Acts” and how did you secure the venue?

RH: I told the story of the teenage boy at an open mic night and Lee Brock, the co-artistic director of the Barrow Group, was there and thought it might be the beginning of a play. As I began to write the play, I realized it was a story of my family. The greatest challenge was to portray my parents in a clear, accurate way; no sugar coating. I interviewed my mother and father eliciting their memories of the time and my own in order to create a comprehensive picture of the struggles both within my family and in the community during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

The very first staging of Random Acts was with the Emerging Artist Theater. I was then invited to the United Solo Festival and a Martin Luther King Celebration in Vermont. The play expanded each time I performed it, with changes in director culminating with my current director, Jessi D. Hill. Lee Brock encouraged me to do a full production at the TBG MainStage Theater.

MM: What do you enjoy the most about the play’s characters and what do you hope audiences remember most about “Random Acts”?

RH: The thing I enjoy most about the characters in my play is they are human beings who are flawed but courageous and striving to make a difference in the world. I find it deeply moving to bear witness to both the ugliness and beauty of the time through the eyes of a little girl.

I hope my story will inspire my audiences to be brave and stand up for what is right.

MM: What other theatrical—or dance—projects are you working on now that you would like to mention?

RH: Random Acts is the first part of a trilogy. I am currently working on the second play.