Even though I have had many, my fondest memory of Playhouse in the Park was when the dance group I was in performed with one of our local groups “The Epics.” My group was called the Chambers Dancers. We were all local kids who lived in the Roxbury, Dorchester area. We performed with the Chambers Brothers who were doing well in those days on the R&B circuit. Anyway! The Chambers Brothers were supposed to perform in the park, but they couldn’t make it, so they canceled. We dancers were all ready to go but we didn’t have music. Fortunately, there were members of the dance group who were in the Epics. They got their instruments and we decided to do the show ourselves. We didn’t know how we would be received by our friends because we had never performed in front of them before. Anyway the show went on and we were received way better than we could have imagined. It was a great night.
I was 14. It was my first summer job working at the Playhouse in the Park. Our job was to clean the park of debris to prepare it for the nights’ events. I had gotten job through the ABCD youth summer employment program. I remember my supervisor at that time. He was a handsome 21 year old that I had a crush on. He gave me a quarter for a kiss. He shouldn’t have – I know that now, but this was 35 years ago – and I know that a 21 year old, even today is still immature. I remember rolling the quarter between my thumb and index finer and watching the sun reflect off of it, over his shoulder. I was too shy to kiss him, so I kept the quarter and ran away. Later that night Hugh Masekela came to play. It was the first performance I was allowed to stay and watch. It was magic – the night was warm and the air was charged with anticipation at this exotic performers appearance. Hordes of people came from all over the city to see this man and swarmed over the Playhouse grounds. For me, he was a great African musician and celebrity and I was awestruck. As the drumming began and the ancient rhythms arced out over the audience we were reconnected with our ancestors, through him, if only for a short time. Afterwards, we walked to our homes in the dark of the summer night, down the winding road, heads held high, proud – the night was alive with the message of our music, our laughter, our voices, our history, our roots, our connection with the Motherland.