A black football player…
A white journalist…
A black class president…
A white gay student…
Cedar High has divisions. These divisions are drawn like a line in the sand and cannot be broken. One fateful afternoon a group of students attempt to bridge this divide setting off a chain of events that rockthe news. BLOOD AT THE ROOT calls our attention to racial injustices we’ve seen throughout history and that still exist today.
The Yard & Jackalope Theatre’s High School Spirit
An old tree stands on Cedar High’s campus with its roots growing deep down into the soil. The tree is also a source of contention between students. It feels like there is this unwritten rule that only certain people (read: white people) can sit underneath this tree. For one student, Raelynn, it’s time for change. She’s decided to run for class president and would be the first black student body president. She also feels compelled to bridge another gap, so she and a group of other students decide to sit under that tree.
However, the next day three nooses are found hanging from the tree. Is it racially motivated? Some would say yes, others might say, why does everything have to be about race?
Regardless, this escalates quickly —protests by the tree, a physical altercation between football players, and finally arrests.
Raelynn is caught in the middle as her brother is one of those arrested and the boy who got beat up is someone with whom she was just starting to begin a friendship.
All the characters struggle to understand each other. They come from different backgrounds and have different roots. BLOOD AT THE ROOT powerfully navigates this space. Cries of “Free the Cedar Six” echo in the theatre and one person’s decision will decide the fate of many.
BLOOD AT THE ROOTS Tackles Racial Injustices
The play tackles the racism that is forefront in our minds. It is the story on front pages of news publications across the country— Why are people with different skin colors treated differently within the justice system?
It’s a double whammy because this isn’t a fictional event. It’s based on real events at a high school in Jena, Louisiana. Nooses were actually hanging from a tree. There was a fight between a white student and six black students. Those six were tried as adults, even though they were only in high school.
And even though these events happened more than ten years ago, they represent the injustices that still persist our justice system today. Indeed, at DePaul University here in Chicago recently a noose was found on campus.
All Star Cast
BLOOD AT THE ROOT’s cast is a talented group of young adults who are part of The Yard organization. The Yard is a youth driven theatre group that works with professional theatre companies to produce challenging works. Here, they’ve partnered with Jackalope Theatre Company known for their works celebrating diverse perspectives.
Their collective cast energy is infectious. They take the stage and create different body rhythms and poetic dialogue throughout, punctuating scene changes. They show how characters are feeling when they can’t get their rhythms right or when they are facing off against each other. This is a powerful touch throughout the play in addition to the actual dialogue.
Ireon Roach playing Raelynn is a fierce leader of the cast as she leads the charge for change. Her brother, DeAndre played by Victor Musoni, also delivers a powerful performance, especially his last spoken word piece about being a black male in today’s society. The rest of the cast also have their own incredible moments and deliver their lines with a truthfulness that we don’t doubt for a second.
BLOOD AT THE ROOT shows us what can happen if we break the rules and what happens if we keep fighting. It brings much needed attention to an issue pervading the public’s mind.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.