Richard Scott has spent 34 years at Madison East High School as a social worker and minority services coordinator. One of the messages he tells students is: Have a dream and pursue that dream.
A decade ago, Scott realized he wasn't pursuing one of his own dreams. That was writing and directing a play about the Buffalo Soldiers, African Americans who joined the U.S. military after 1860 but remained a segregated unit for almost 90 years.
Scott wanted to honor the soldiers' legacy and share their tales with another generation.
The dramatic play "Buffalo Soldiers: The Legacy" began developing in 1999 with Scott writing, directing and producing. Although he had acted in community plays, Scott had never overseen a show before this one.
Scott's "Buffalo Soldiers" debuts in two performances for middle and high school students on Friday, May 29, and a public show on Saturday, May 30, at Overture Center's Playhouse.
"I'm extremely proud," Scott said. "It's finally happening."
In 2000, Scott was helped by local Playwrights Ink members, who gave him guidance and encouraged more character development in his script.
Scott developed a 12-person, all-adult cast one year ago. Last winter, "Buffalo Soldiers" had seven public readings that helped him hone the script.
"Buffalo Soldiers" follows the 10th U.S. Cavalry during 1869 as it entered combat against American Indians in the Southwest territories of Arizona and New Mexico. The play looks at how the soldiers faced racism and sought equality.
"Shortly after the emancipation of the African-American slaves, many went out West looking for new opportunities and a way to provide for their families," Scott said.
"The military was one area because they were receiving compensation of about $13 per month, which was monumental compared to what they were getting as slaves. When they went out and joined the military, they were fragmented because there were some who were escaped slaves, some freed slaves and some who were actual business owners. They came together in this new environment, the southwest territories."
Because of the diverse population, Scott said, there was not a lot of continuity. And the soldiers did grunt work: building roads and forts. Everything except being soldiers. In 1866, Congress commissioned them to fight and bear arms, allowing them to go out on military campaigns.
"From 1866 to 1890, they distinguished themselves as outstanding military strategists and soldiers," Scott said. "They were disrespected by a lot of the other white soldiers. They were not allowed to have black officers so white officers who wanted commissions would volunteer to lead these African-American soldiers."
Scott combined several military conflicts into one to tell a well-rounded story about the soldiers. The cast includes Scott's sons Richard and Ian, and Scott also performs in the show.
"We have a very powerful group of committed community people," Scott said. "The actors, pretty much, are novices. But this is letting them know they have talent that they didn't know they had. That's the beauty of theater. It brings out a lot of untapped talent."
\ IF YOU GO
What: "Buffalo Soldiers: The Legacy"
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 30
Where: Overture Center's Playhouse, 201 State St.
Tickets: $20, Overturecenter.com