Listen to this article here
By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder, director and executive editor
Powerful and educational are two adjectives that audience members used to describe Dr. Rodney Clark’s and Maybell Wallace’s stage presentation of the Face of Emmett Till, written by Mamie Till-Mobley and David Barr III.
And if you’re planning to see the next live performance of this black classical masterpiece, you may want to bring a box of kleenexes because local actress SynCeerae Robbins of Tulsa brings the house down with an emotionally-talented and compelling performance as Mamie Till-Mobley, mother of 14-year-old lynched-victim Emmett Till.
From the moment Robbins took to the stage, the audience was led down a dark path — into the world of a black mother’s burden, acceptance that a racially hostile and unjust system took her only child and did so with full impunity, publicly. During her extraordinary performance, Robbins cried and shriek at the top of her lungs, her voice filling the entire theater, as if her own child were laying cold and disfigured in the wooden box.
“It is one of the most powerful roles that I have had the honor of portraying. Ms Mamie Till-Mobley is faced with a situation that no mother wants to ever have to go through. But she does it with strength, and with the support of her mother and father,” Robbins shared with us.
None of the other performers disappointed. Each cast member gave the packed-out Liddy Doenges Theatre hall — the belly of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center — their all on opening day.
Moreover, much excitement swelled around high school senior Terre’al Galloway since January when The Black Wall Street Times enthusiastically announced that he would play the role of young Emmett; the article received over 3,300 local Facebook shares.
“I was kind of nervous at first, but I was excited and ready to come and do the play,” Galloway said after the premiere performance and now looks forward to the next two shows.
Nevertheless, Sunday’s excellent performance isn’t the only thing Galloway has to be proud of; he announced earlier this month that he plans to attend Oklahoma’s one and only H.B.C.U. Langston University.
Galloway’s mother, Yolanda Sheppard, proudly watched his performance and revealed how she had to pray before allowing her son to play such a racially-charged and traumatic role.
“I had to really pray about it; then pray about it some more. I knew that my son would have to really get into the role. That he would have to turn into Emmett Till, so it was scary. Knowing the story — it’s touching and sad to see it still happening today, just in another form, and it makes me angry,” Sheppard shared.
What made the play incredibly realistic was the langauge and reenactment of Emmett’s death and the actual graphic image presented during the play, of Emmett, after his murder; hence, viewers should take caution if they plan to bring children under 12.
As the founder, director and executive editor of The Black Wall Street Times, I give Theater North’s presentation of the Face of Emmett Till five stars for its powerfully-moving and educational stage play. I recommend that local high school students and Tulsa citizens see this performance as we continue to face our city’s own past sins of racial injustice.
The Play’s Synopsis
A true-to-life dramatization of the death of 14-year-old Emmett Till, a Chicago teenager who, while visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, in August 1955, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by two white men for allegedly whistling at a local white woman. The horror and the brutality of this crime were magnified even more when his mother, Mamie Till, made the courageous decision to invite the media to the funeral where she had an open casket. This play chronicles the tragedy, its aftermath, and Mamie Till’s heroic crusade for justice. Rightfully called “The hate crime that changed America,” this event sparked the Civil Rights movement in the United States. — David Barr III