History revealed in Blood Done Sign My Name | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

History revealed in Blood Done Sign My Name 

Mike Wiley in Blood Done Sign My Name

Photo by Curtis Brown

Mike Wiley in Blood Done Sign My Name

BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME, playwright and solo performer Mike Wiley's adaptation of Timothy B. Tyson's best-selling memoir, boasts the largest cast of any one-person show I've ever seen. In Wiley's prismatic, sometimes cinematic take, nearly 30 characters speak to us about a race-based murder in Oxford, N.C.

On the night of May 11, 1970, three white men brutally beat and then killed 23-year-old Henry "Dickie" Marrow, an African-American Vietnam War veteran. Though multiple eyewitnesses identified business owner Robert Teel, his son Larry Teel and his stepson Roger Oakley as being involved in the killing, an all-white jury returned no convictions for Marrow's death.

In the aftermath, white-owned businesses and tobacco warehouses were firebombed, causing more than $1 million in property damage. A protest march from Granville County to Raleigh provoked retaliation by the Ku Klux Klan.

Almost unbelievably—that is, to anyone except North Carolina natives from that time—the event would have just blown over and been lost in the largely unwritten racial history of the state had Tyson not gone back to his childhood town and started asking questions.

The conflicting answers from civil rights workers, community members, Robert Teel and Tyson's father, Vernon—who was pastor, at the time, of an Oxford Methodist church—add to the sense of a mosaic in Wiley's adaptation.

Judicious editing has improved the work since its 2008 premiere. Managing so many characters still poses more of a challenge than in Wiley's earlier works, such as Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till. But his acting skills, along with the careful verbal tags introducing every witness, effectively delineate most characters. Restructuring has also eliminated too-brief scenes that occasionally suggested channel surfing in the original production.

Mary D. Williams' robust a cappella vocals from the canon of African-American protest songs and spirituals provide a stirring backdrop for this moving and still-necessary act of theatrical witness.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Bared Witness"

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Theater



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

I commend Mr.Woods on his insight. There is a lot to think about in both his article and the following …

by natty on Justice Theater Project's superbly sung and choreographed The Color Purple has one fatal flaw (Theater)

I saw this show in Chapel Hills. This was the first time I had seen a Paperhand's show. It was …

by Irene Griest on Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s The Beautiful Beast Makes Merry With Monsters of Myth and Memory (Theater)

Great review! Fans of Decision Height and the Women's Theatre Festival may also want to check out The ArtsCenter's interview …

by The ArtsCenter on Superheroines Historical and Fantastical Power Two Memorable Women's Theatre Festival Shows (Theater)

Four of our friends accompanied us to this production. We have seen other Wendy Ward productions and loved them all …

by Gann Watson on Embark on a Timely Voyage Into Immigration Issues in I Wish You a Boat (Theater)

Thanks for the correction, Dustin. The playbill listed the wrong actor in the role.

by Byron Woods, INDY Theater and Dance Critic on Evaluating Bare Theatre's Experiment in Free Public Shakespeare on the Eve of Its Final Show (Theater)

Comments

I commend Mr.Woods on his insight. There is a lot to think about in both his article and the following …

by natty on Justice Theater Project's superbly sung and choreographed The Color Purple has one fatal flaw (Theater)

I saw this show in Chapel Hills. This was the first time I had seen a Paperhand's show. It was …

by Irene Griest on Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s The Beautiful Beast Makes Merry With Monsters of Myth and Memory (Theater)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation