Webster Conservatory’s first fall production tells story of systemic racism

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“Blood at the Root” will run in the Emerson Studio Theater from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8. The 2017 play by Dominique Morisseau highlights the existence and pervasiveness of systemic racism in the United States’ justice system.

“It’s a very uncomfortable text,” musical theatre major Collin Mekyel Milfort said. Milfort plays Deandre in the production. “I want audiences to leave feeling uncomfortable and okay with that uncomfortability.”

The production tells the story of the Jena Six: six Black teenagers in Jena, Louisiana who were tried for attempted murder in 2006. The trials were the culmination of high racial tensions in Jena that began with nooses hanging from a tree in the high school’s courtyard.

As the head of the season selection committee, Director Rayme Cornell has been planning on producing “Blood at the Root” for some time.

“I had ‘Blood at the Root’ in the mix last year. I was like, ‘Oh no, I don’t know if we’re gonna get to do it.’ ‘Blood at the Root’ is really particular. We’re at a PWI, a Predominantly White Institution, and ‘Blood at the Root’ is essentially a Black play with a Black playwright,” Cornell said. 

Cornell sees this play centering Webster’s conservatory in the anti-racist movement. As recently as 2020, the “We See You, White American Theatre” movement has sparked resistance to predominantly white stories told by predominantly white authors in American theater.

“I think we are at the forefront of committing to doing anti-racist work. Our students are committing and signing contracts to be anti-racist, no longer centering whiteness,” Cornell said. 

Cornell invites audiences to come and embrace the play’s “uncomfortable” themes. 

“I hope you walk away with a sense that you learned something … To be able to reflect and possibly change and be uncomfortable and not afraid to ask questions,” Cornell said. 

Tickets can be reserved for free by students, faculty and staff. Visit the conservatory’s website for more information.

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Brady Stiff
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