port of harlem magazine
Mosaic Theater
Review – Till Trilogy Continues at Mosaic Theater in DC – That Summer in Sumner
Nov 03 – Nov 16, 2022

till trilogy

DC's Mosaic Theater opened its 2022-2023 season with “The Till Trilogy,” honoring Civil Rights icon Emmett Till in three plays performed simultaneously, in rotating repertory, for the very first time. The Till Trilogy runs through Sunday, November 20; there is no prescribed way to experience the three plays, productions can be seen in any order and can also be viewed individually as standalone experiences.
The three-play cycle honors the life and legacy of Emmett Till, with 10 actors playing 75 characters. We have reviewed one of the three, Benevolence, and will review That Summer in Sumner in the next issue. Additional information about the Trilogy follows the review.
I was more compelled to look and see if there was any grain of truth in the Melton’s story. It is true. Now, I must see the other two plays in this trilogy.

That Summer in Sumner (world premiere)

Money, Mississippi, 1955, a town so insignificant that its location is not on the map. When two White men are indicted for the vicious murder of a teenage Black boy, things change. This tiny town draws the unwelcomed attention of the press.

“That Sumner in Sumner” covers the story of an integrated team of four reporters scrambling to uncover the elusive truth and to get justice, however their efforts are thwarted by death threats at each turn. Sumner” is part of a trilogy by award-winning playwright Ifa Bayeza’s..

A diverse cast put forth a convincing portrayal of the racism that characterized the South of that period. At moments. the depictions where so repulsive, it seemed comical and unbelievable that many White people openly thought the way they did about Black people.

With only ten cast members playing different roles, coming and going as many characters, If you turn your head for a moment you may miss a character switch and be totally lost to what was happening.

However, emotionally, Bayeza’s story will certainly rush your feelings from applaud to exasperation. The flash of Emmett Till’s mutilated face was very difficult to watch and conjured emotions of anger. Large over-exposures of actual trial photos continually displayed at the back of the stage only fueled the anger. Then there is the horrid treatment of Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmett’s mother, who was subjugated to insolence from the moment she stepped into Money.
One of the most powerful performances came when Mose Wright, Emmett’s great uncle, played by Jason Bowen, is questioned under oath. He recounts that faithful night when White men kicked in his door and demanded he hand over that N!@#% from the north.

I felt as if I was right in that house with him. That scene had to be difficult to play, because it was so difficult to watch. It was equally matched by the graphic description the night when the 14-year-ago Emmett was tortured, brutalized, and his body tossed into the Tallahatchie River. like old garbage.

The impact of the play is compounded by The Mosaic Theater’s stage being within a foot of the audience. The intimacy makes you feel that you are a part of the play. However, this is one of several tragic stories that I am thankful is still being told. We must never stop telling our stories no matter how painful.

The Ballad of Emmett Till

With music, magic, and humor, The Ballad of Emmett Till introduces Emmett, or “Bo,” a boisterous Chicago adolescent teaming with curiosity and excited about his summer trip to Mississippi. On this mythic journey, his fateful encounter at a country store changes his life and our nation forever.

That Summer in Sumner (world premiere)

Drawn from courtroom transcripts, news accounts, and government records, world premiere That Summer in Sumner reimagines the Mississippi trial of the accused killers of Emmett Till and the quest of a team of African-American reporters to uncover the truth and get new evidence before the Jim Crow court. With palpable energy, That Summer in Sumner takes audiences along for the ride on the reporters’ perilous and sometimes hilarious journey.

Benevolence (See in the last issue)

A poignant and powerful look into the ripple effects of Emmett Till’s murder, Benevolence follows two couples, one Black and one white, as they struggle with their knowledge of the killing and the toll it takes on their lives and love. With rich language and harrowing honesty, Benevolence invites audiences to reflect upon how our collective history still resonates in our personal lives today.

More Activities

Additionally, Mosaic is partnering with more than 20 organizations on the companion Reflection Series, a citywide series of concerts, readings, and panels that offer audiences to creatively engage with themes of justice and activism.

Events in The Till Trilogy Reflection Series include:

Ford’s Theatre’s Cabinet Conversations: The Emmett Till Antilynching Act
Thursday, Oct 20 at 4PM
Virtual event

Post-Show Conversation
Telling Our Own Story: The Power of Black Journalism, featuring Dorothy Gilliam and Dr. Natalie Hopkinson of Howard University
Saturday, Oct 22 following 3p matinee
Atlas Performing Arts Center

Post-Show Conversation
The Push for the Emmett Till National Park
produced in collaboration with the National Parks Conservation Association
and featuring Dr. Alan Spears
Saturday, Oct 29 following 3PM matinee
Atlas Performing Arts Center

Post-Show Conversation
Reflections on Justice In Our City
produced in collaboration with ACLU DC
Saturday, Nov 5 following 3PM matinee
Atlas Performing Arts Center

Post-Show Conversation
Chicago Connections
Saturday, Nov 12 following 3PM matinee
Atlas Performing Arts Center

Art as Response to Tragedy Professional Development Curriculum for Educators
Ongoing, provided by Imagination Stage
The Signature Show featuring an original song inspired by The Till Trilogy
Date TBD
Signature Theatre

Click here to see the dates (Oct 4 - Nov 20) for all three performances

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