“Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round, turn me ’round, turn me ’round …”
Meadows stepped back into history this past weekend with the opening of “Blues for Mister Charlie.”
Taking place in the 1960s deep south, the play follows the murder of Richard Henry, a young African-American jazz musician.
Henry, the son of a minister, returns home after eight years in the north to an unchanged southern code of silent obedience.
Loosely based off the story of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy who was killed for allegedly flirting with a white woman, Till’s story is revived through Richard Henry. The play reopens old wounds and evokes timeless lessons portraying the racial tension, hatred and anger of injustice.
“It has so much guts to it that all the characters are ripping at each other. I wanted to explore the depth of the human experience,” Ted Gwara said.
Director and SMU alumna Patricia McGregor returns to share the James Baldwin written, emotionally fierce and passionate story to the SMU community.
“Patricia made us an ensemble first and made us deal with the pain, hurt, sadness and hatred by coming together and not hating each other,” Chinyere Oputa said. “We had to disconnect ourselves from the hatred but we had to be willing to go into it when the time came.”
The stage was set to reflect how paralyzing and deeply ingrained racism can be. The tree, a symbol of life, was looming over the stage with the leaves made of newspapers displaying history’s worst hate crimes.
For the student actors the play was at times difficult to handle with the recent shooting of Trayvon Martin. The play became even more personal to them. They wanted the story to be heard and understood.
“All of our hatred comes from a place of love. It’s not so much we hate a person because of the way they are but we are treating them that way to protect the ones that we love,” Elizabeth Peterson said. “I want the audience to see that there are two sides to every story and to every conflict.”
At times a little heavy, the play brings the promise of a hopeful future.
The performance was only for the weekend but served its purpose of exploring the unsettling nature of racism.