WHAT: "Mississippi and the Face of Emmett Till"
WHEN: Opens tonight and continues through March 4
WHERE: Paul Robeson Theatre, African American Culture Center, 350 Masten Ave.
ADMISSION: $17.50 general admission, $13.50 seniors and students, children under 12 $7.50. Tickets for opening night, with a forum and reception, are $21.50. Please note that Saturday and Feb. 24 are sold out.
The appalling facts of a 1955 abduction and murder of the 14-year-old Emmett Till are the basis of "Mississippi and the Face of Emmett Till," a play co-written by the victim's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, and Chicago playwright David Barr.
Emmett was on a summer vacation visit from his hometown of Chicago to see his mother's relatives living in Money, Miss. As a result of polio, he struggled with a speech impediment and would whistle to get out certain sounds. Because of this, he was accused of making a pass at a white woman, the wife of one of the kidnappers, while in a little country store. On Aug. 27, he was abducted by two white men. Days later his mutilated body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River. He had been shot, stabbed, his eyes had been gouged out and his head had been split by an ax. Around his neck was a heavy cotton gin fan secured with barbed wire. Even with the testimony of eye witnesses, the accused - Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam - were acquitted by an all-white jury. Soon the heinous crime would become an impetus for the first acts of civil disobedience that launched the civil rights movement.
The Paul Robeson Theatre's production of the play will commemorate Black History Month 2001. The opening night performance will be followed by a forum called "Jim Crow 2001: Saving Our African-American Sons." Mobley and Barr will participate. A second forum - focusing on the evolution of hip hop - will follow the Feb. 18 performance.
The large cast features Cynthia Maxwell playing Mamie Till and Leon Hicks as Emmett. Also performing are Jack Hunter, Graham "Skip" Dillard, Sandra Clay, Carlton Franklin, Ellen Steigman, Marcus J. Pace, Harold L. White, Paul A. Briandi and Elton Bowers. The play is directed by Laverne Clay.