Blood at the Root, a cast perspective


Lance Lagoni

The play, "Blood at the Root," based on the Jena Six case in Louisiana, ran from Nov. 2-11 at ECC.

Al Tuider, Staff Writer

Blood at the Root, a play by Dominique Morisseau, was staged this past weekend in the Second Space Theatre at Elgin Community College.

BATR captures the dark truths of Americans lifestyles, morals and justice system in today’s world. The play is based on the real-life events of the Jena Six, six African-American students that attended Jena Highschool in Louisiana and were arrested and charged with the attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy on a white student. The root of the violence was because a black student sat under a tree on school grounds that only white students sat under. The following week at school, several nooses were found hanging from the tree. This instance, and several other actions, ultimately led to the crime that was committed. Some students were tried as adults in front of an all-white jury and now face up to 100 years without parole. With this occurring only less than 15 years ago, the play BATR is still extremely relevant.

“I thought it was really important that we have discussions about what’s going on today, because the stuff that’s happening in the play is definitely going on today,” said Susan Robinson, newly tenured Assistant Professor of Theatre and director of the production. “My goal here at ECC is to do shows that are important, to do shows that have a message and a voice for stories you may not have heard before.”

With such a strong message being sent, the stage and the audience were close together, helping the actors portray their message in a different light. It was performed on a thrust stage, which is when the stage extends into the audience and the actors are surrounded on three sides. This enables the cast to get up close and connect to the audience.

“You don’t know how the shows are going to go until it is happening, until preview night,” Robinson said. “It’s not about just one thing, nor right or wrong, but more about how we all have a perspective. Each character gets the chance to show different sides to themselves. That’s what theatre is, us understanding people from a different perspective.”

The play consisted of a very diverse cast. For five of the actors, Blood at the Root was their first show at ECC. Terry Holt, a first-year student, made his acting debut landing the role of De’Andre. De’Andre is one of the six students who was arrested, and his character’s story helps guide the play.

“I felt a sense of responsibility,” Holt said. I guess you can say I was obligated to present the role of De’Andre as I did, to put as much passion in [the performance] as possible, because it’s so relevant and to try my hardest to get the point across.”

Several other cast members felt the same way. Not only were they trying to put on a great show, but they also hoped to promote a broader message. Nikki Macey, a second-year student, was also making her ECC acting debut playing the role of Asha. In a segregated school, Asha finds she relates more to other cultures than her own and throughout the story she struggles with her identity.

“It was really hard for me to realize that my character wasn’t me, Macey said. I had to learn how to become someone else. The message I try to give [in my performance] is: It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can be friends with whoever you want to be friends with and still be the person you want to be, as long as you’re happy.”

Both actors are thrilled that they did the play and are immensely grateful to Robinson for the opportunity to be a part of the cast. Holt and Macey hope to be cast in future productions at ECC, and Robinson plans on continuing to put on shows that push limits and allow the audience to think.