DOCUMENTARY THEATER: Actor tells the story of Emmett Till in Turnage play
Published 7:52 pm Thursday, March 5, 2015
In 1955, a 14-year-old black Chicago youth traveled to the Mississippi Delta with country kinfolk and southern cooking on his mind. He walked off the train and into a world he could never understand: a world of thick color lines, of hard-held class systems and unspeakable taboos. Young Emmett Till crossed one of those lines and was murdered for it.
Thursday, acclaimed actor Mike Wiley will bring the story to life in a one-man, multi-character play, “Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till,” at the Turnage Theater in Washington. Tickets are $10 for the general public and admission is free for any student with a valid ID.
Wiley performs what’s called documentary theater — stories plucked from history, staged for a performance that is simultaneously art and education. They’re built on pivotal moments in African-American history and have been acclaimed across the country. Formerly of Theatre IV and Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, Wiley has more than twelve years specializing in theatre for young audiences. That work has expanded into regional theater, television and film. A gifted playwright and actor, his overriding goal is expanding cultural awareness for all audiences through dynamic, character-rich portrayals of pivotal events that form the history of the American experience, according to a press release from the Beaufort County Arts Council.
“Mike does a great job of blending art and education,” said Joey Toler. “He is just so effective and so good at what he does. He has a real passion for his work and really believes in it.”
This is not Wiley’s first trip to the area: over the years he’s told the Jackie Robinson story, “A Game Apart,” and more recently “The Parchman Hour,” both in the theater and in Beaufort County Schools. Courtesy of the regional Beaufort County Arts Council, Wiley will be doing a three-day schools residency in Washington County before heading to Washington.
“This is the first time we have been able to present Mike in a full-scale public performance,” said Joey Toler, BCAC executive director. “The wonderful performance space at the Turnage now makes this possible, and we hope the public will respond to this important production.”
The play chronicles the murder of Emmett Till, the trial of his murderers and their unbelievable confession after trial. The performance is not recommended for young children.
“It’s recommended for older children and adults, anyone who’s interested in civil rights history, anyone who’s interested in just good theater,” Toler said. “Not only is it interesting because of the African-American history, but it’s just good theater.”
Tickets can be purchased by calling 252-946-2504 or visiting the BCAC box office in the Turnage Theater at 150 W. Main St., Washington.