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Dear Bobby: A Musical About His Indy Speech

A Ball State playwright and instructor wrote the musical and was surprised to find a Ball State connection.

MUNCIE, Ind.--April 4, 1968 was a sad day for most of America. Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed in Memphis. That news was delivered in Indiana by presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, on the back of a flatbed truck, to a mostly black audience.

Dear Bobby

His speech, which he scribbled down in the car on the way to the gathering, from the airport. Instead of the evnt being a campaign stop, it was where people learned of a happening very painful to them, and heard a speech that wasn't about politics, but may have kept people in Indy from rioting.

Angela Jackson Brown, a playwright and English teacher at Ball State University, has written a musical called "Dear Bobby", which premiers at the Onyx Festival Thursday night in Indianapolis. It's about the events of that night, told through the eyes of two young girls-one black and one Jewish.

"It's really not something one would think about when telling a story this serious and of this magnitude," said Brown, about the musical. She started writing it after she had finished another musical.

Angela Jackson Broan's interview with Terri Stacy

Pitching the idea

"I pitched the idea to the Kennedy-King Memorial Initiative board, and they were all excited about it," she said. "I decided what I needed to do was write some of the lyrics and I need to provide them with the main song that I envisioned for the piece, which is one I wrote called 'We Stand Strong'."

But, she didn't just provide them lyrics.

"I'm not a singer by nature, but this tune kept playing in my head. So, I recorded myself singing it on my phone and I went to the meeting and I played it and I told them the concept and they just immediately said yes."

The Indiana connection

Brown said her research for the musical led her to finding out the connection between Kennedy and Ball State.

"Bobby Kennedy's day started at Ball State, speaking to an audience estimated at between ten and twelve thousand students," said Brown. "We was at Ball State when he learned about what happened. It's exciting to me to know that my university has that connection to this story."

She said when she wrote the play, she realized that Kennedy's speech was not about his campaign.

"He cared about the people. He told his people, this is not about me anymore. This is about everyone in the audience."

She said she doesn't believe there would have been violence in Indianapolis, but that Kennedy's legendary speech has been inspirational ever since the day King was assassinated. 

PHOTOS: Getty/Betmann Collection

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