Presented as part of the mainstage performance season for the Theatre program at Old Dominion University.
7-week rehearsal process
Director: Brittney S. Harris
Set Designer: Jim Lyden
Costume Designer: Meredith Magoun
Lighting Designer: Sean Blue
Sound Designer: Josh Knibb
Cast: Kendra Blount, Angelina Paquin, Koby Lomax, S’Donte Dowtin, Zoe Moscopulos, Ian Turner, Hope Mccullough, Jay Prime
"When a Black student disrupts the status quo at her high school by occupying space typically reserved for white students, her community erupts in hate speech, violence, and chaos. Inspired by the Jena Six case, which roiled tensions in Louisiana in 2006, this play scrutinizes the intrinsic links between justice, bias, and identity. Moving, lyrical, and bold, Blood at the Root probes the complexities of race, individual freedoms, and what justice means in America when biases have been normalized."- from Concord Theatricals
View and download full complete program/playbill for ODURep Theatre's production of Blood at the Root by Dominique Morisseau.
Directed by Brittney S. Harris
Roots. Exposure of Power. Justice.
Blood at the Root highlights the continued conversation around racial inequity and injustice as it infringes on our personal lives and sparks local and national movements. One of these movements inspired Blood at the Root. This play is based on events that occurred fifteen years ago at a High School in Jena, Louisiana. Students encounter inequities and injustices that soon grow beyond their campus and the Louisiana borders to impact our nation. Between 15,000 and 20,000 protesters marched on Jena in what was described as the "largest civil rights demonstration in years." Some may remember this story. Some of you are learning about it tonight. I believe this play is essential for various reasons, the most important being the impact we all experience in our lives when faced with hate and violence against one another. This hate is layered into our soil…but perhaps it's time to look at our history more truthfully. Work together, heal together, and plant something new.
The title of the play, Blood at the Root, comes from a 1939 Billie Holiday song entitled "Strange Fruit." The song protests the lynching of black Americans and acknowledges how anti-blackness is part of the foundation of our country. Like Holiday's poetic imagery, the tree in front of Jena High School also takes on significant meaning within the world of Blood at the Root, representing how anti-black racism has "roots" in our country's history and institutions. The events and protests of 2020 remind us that these realities still exist today. As much as we want to examine and change racism in America, it is difficult to abolish something so deeply rooted in our history.
Our 7-week rehearsal process was dedicated to developing purposeful relationships through scene work and choreography/movement with the dialogue. A second major production component is Augusto Boal's Image Theatre exercise from the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology. This unique method uses still images to explore abstract concepts, such as relationships, emotions, and realistic situations. These images are then placed together and 'dynamized' or brought to life in a collective living perception of "unity" riddled with provocations. Image Theatre work is often used to explore internal or external oppression, unconscious thoughts, and feelings.
Through provocatively lyrical Boalian Image Theatre and collective tableaux work, as a director, I constantly empowered our ensemble to challenge the intrinsic links between justice, bias, and identity and create their own unique interpretation of this text and characters so carefully crafted by Morisseau. The entire cast and production team have diligently rehearsed and devised the collective creation of the world of Blood at the Root, and the play, in turn, has reseeded our thoughts, self-conceptions, and worldviews. Theatre is rooted in personal, intentional interaction - a society within itself, a microcosm of society as a whole.
Mace & Crown
Thomas, Ash F.
"Overall amazing! Loved every minute."
"I loved every aspect of the play. The set, costumes, music, lighting, and especially the protest scene. I also really enjoyed how much personality and emotion was given to each character because I was able to see and understand each one’s point of view, and why they acted/felt the way they did."
"I thought the show was truly well done and certainly invoked powerful emotions in myself as well as the rest of the audience. I felt connected to the show through its themes of intersectionality, power, and inequality.”
"This was an amazing performance. All of the actors did an incredible job discussing and performing difficult topics. The choreography and poetry was well composed and added depth to the performance. Bravo!"
"The lighting and the backdrop was amazing. Loved the depth of the characters and the actors interpretation as well."
"The show was perfect and so touching on so many different topics that we’re often afraid to talk about."
"Love this show, love the direction, love the actors. Cry every time."
Featured a) professional photos by J. Stubbs Photography and b) rehearsals, ensemble/tableaux development sessions of Blood at the Root