Mae Rivers (played by Valerie Woodard) is restrained by Mr. Kinley (Jayson Duckett) as Temperence Hedgepeth (LeDawna Akins) comforts Jenny Rivers (Kira Woodard), from left, in a scene from 'You Wouldn't Expect.' The play follows the stories of a nurse and four women caught up in the state's long-running eugenics program.

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Mae Rivers (played by Valerie Woodard) is restrained by Mr. Kinley (Jayson Duckett) as Temperence Hedgepeth (LeDawna Akins) comforts Jenny Rivers (Kira Woodard), from left, in a scene from 'You Wouldn't Expect.' The play follows the stories of a nurse and four women caught up in the state's long-running eugenics program.

Play relives bleak history

From Contributed Reports

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NASHVILLE – The tragic story of North Carolina’s eugenics program will be told in a play that opens a five-venue run later this month at the Nash Arts Center.

“You Wouldn’t Expect” by Marilynn Barner Anselmi tells the story of four of the more than 7,600 people, the vast majority of them women, many of whom were black, who were sterilized under the program that ran from the 1930s to 1974.

The women’s plights are introduced by Temperene Hedgepeth (played by LeDawna Akins), a black nurse in the mid-1960s in Eastern North Carolina whose job was to process the paperwork for those about to be sterilized. Hedgepeth, who takes her responsibility seriously, eventually realizes that all four are poor. That fact puts Hedgepeth at odds with her supervisor, Mary Tom Walker (Christine Rogers), a supporter of eugenics, and leads the nurse to confront her own past in a surprising climax.

“We’re very excited to be able to bring this important play to the arts center,” said Jeri Lynn Schulke, stage artistic director of TheArtsCenter, a Carrboro venue where the play also will be produced. “The Eugenics Board’s actions from 1933 through the early ’70s have ramifications that are still being felt."

Tim Peck, and Scottie Helm direct the play. The cast includes Valerie Woodard, Jayson Duckett, Leia Batchelor, J’Nai Boston, Tammy Robinson, Kira Woodard, Pam Mould and Steven Mould.

“You Wouldn’t Expect” will be staged at 7 p.m. Sept. 28-29 and Oct. 5-6 at the Nash Arts Center, 100 E. Washington St. Tickets are $12 and are available online at brownpapertickets.com/event/272053 or by calling 459-4734.

From there, the play will move to three other local venues and then to Carrboro. The productions are:

> 2 p.m. Oct. 7 – The Booker T Theatre, 170 E. Thomas St., Rocky Mount. Admission is free through a grant from the N.C. Humanities Council. However, reservations must be made by calling the Nash Arts Center.

Following that production, there will be a panel discussion that includes Elaine Riddick, a victim of the program; Dr. Denise Feikima, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke; and elected officials.

> 2 p.m. Oct. 14 – McIntyre Auditorium, Edgecombe Community College, 2009 W. Wilson St., Tarboro. Tickets at the door are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

> 7 p.m. Oct. 17 – Dunn Center for the Performing Arts, N.C. Wesleyan College, 3500 N. Wesleyan Blvd., Rocky Mount. Tickets  are $7. Admission is free to students with any valid school identification. To order tickets, call 985-5197.

> 3 p.m. Oct. 21 – TheArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro. Advance tickets are adults $10 and students and senior citizens $6. Tickets at the door are adults $12 and students and seniors $8. To order tickets, call 919-929-2787, ext. 201.

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