‘A Touch of Glory’: Zionsville resident writes play about legendary 1955 Crispus Attucks basketball team

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With NBA All-Star weekend approaching, one Zionsville resident wants to ensure Hoosiers embrace the state’s basketball history.

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Town

Laura Town of Zionsville wrote a play titled “A Touch of Glory” that tells the 1955 story of Oscar Robertson and his basketball teammates at Crispus Attucks High School. During All-Star weekend, the play will be performed at Crispus Attucks High School, 1140 Doctor Martin Luther King Junior St., in Indianapolis.

Led by future NBA star and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Robertson, in 1955 Crispus Attucks became the first all-Black high school team in the nation to win a state championship in any sport.

The play focuses on the 1955 era and the many obstacles the team had to overcome to win the state title during segregation. Attucks was the only all-Black high school in Indianapolis.

“I’m very enthusiastic about using the Crispus Attucks auditorium because it is where the boys had to practice some of their games because they weren’t given a regular gym,” Town said. “So, there’s a historic purpose for having it there.”

The idea for the play came about when Town attended the Memorial Day parade in downtown Indianapolis in 2015, when surviving members of the 1955 team were the grand marshals.

“I was at the parade, and I realized I didn’t know much about the 1955 Crispus Attucks team,” Town said. “I knew that Oscar Robertson was their captain and that he was an NBA Hall of Famer, but I didn’t know the full story.”

Another historical aspect that interested Town when writing the play was the “loss of innocence” the team experienced in 1955.

“Back in the 50s, when you won the state tournament, you had a big victory parade,” Town said. “Crispus Attucks was denied that because local leaders were afraid that African Americans would riot and tear up downtown. What really spoke to me was that these boys did everything right. They had nearly a perfect season. They lost just one game and were denied their victory parade. How do you overcome that?”

The play explores how the 1955 Crispus Attucks team changed the game of basketball and how the players recovered from being denied a celebration of their victory.

Town was contacted about a year and a half ago by historian David Williams, who said it would be ideal to present the play during All-Star weekend in February to help Hoosiers understand their basketball history and also provide an opportunity for visitors to learn about the Attucks story. Town has been working on the play since 2016.

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From left, standing, The 1955 Crispus Attucks team: coach Ray Crowe, Willie Merriweather, John Gipson, Oscar Robertson, Sheddrick Mitchell and Willie Burnley. From left, kneeling, Stan Patton, Sam Milton, Bill Hampton, Bill Brown, Bill Scott and Johnnie Brown (Photo courtesy of Indiana Historical Society)

“I interviewed the surviving members of the team and (Attucks coach Ray Crowe’s) family and worked on this for quite a long time,” Town said. “I have a friendship with Williams, and the Lilly Foundation contacted him to support his work, and he said, ‘I’d rather you support this play.’”

The Lilly Foundation, in collaboration with the Central Indiana Community Foundation and creative agency GangGang, is funding the play. Proceeds will help offset production costs.

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Asante

The play is directed by ​​the founder and artistic director of the Asante Children’s Theatre, Deborah Asante, and produced by Asante’s son, Terrance Asante-Doyle. Asante said she has been able to bring a cultural perspective to the play as Town brings a “genuine desire to educate and impact people.”

“I have been very glad that I was open enough to look at all the possibilities because this is a very exciting project to be involved in,” Asante said.

As a basketball fan, Asante-Doyle said he never knew about the story but instantly saw the connections in the play from growing up in the basketball community.

“I saw the possibilities from the timing of Indianapolis hosting the All-Star Game to our social climate,” Asante-Doyle said. “The timing is perfect to tell this story.”

“A Touch of Glory” is the first full play Town has written, and her full-time job is writing curriculum for universities, associations and high schools. Town is helping create a middle school curriculum that will be given freely to schools globally.

“The curriculum uses the play as a jumping-off point,” Town said. “We’re going to talk about social and emotional intelligence and resilience when facing tough times.”

Town hopes the play will raise awareness of basketball history and provide an opportunity for people unfamiliar with the 1955 Crispus Attucks team to learn more about its legacy.

“I felt remiss in not knowing the history of Indianapolis and the great accomplishments of this team,” Town said. “I would just like other people to understand what this team went through and reflect on how they overcame all these challenges. It’s a very inspirational story to me.”

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From left, Corey White as younger Oscar Robertson, Ennis Adams Jr. as Principal Russell Lane, Josh Bruton as Bailey Robertson and Eric Washington as older Oscar Robertson at rehearsal. (Photo courtesy of Laura Town)

IF YOU GO

What: “A Touch of Glory,” a play written by Zionsville resident Laura Town that tells the story of the 1955 Crispus Attucks High School state champion basketball team and the challenges it faced and eventually overcame.

Free showings: Feb. 9 and Feb. 10 at 8 p.m., Feb. 11 at 4 p.m.

All-Star week showings ($20 in advance, $30 at the door): Feb. 16 and Feb. 17 at 8 p.m., Feb. 18 at 4 p.m.

Where: 1140 Doctor Martin Luther King Junior St., Indianapolis

Tickets: atouchofgloryplay.com


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