2008

Emmett, Down in My Heart

A play by Clare Coss

Directed by Kenny Leon
Featuring Kathleen Chalfant, Danny Glover, and Linda Powell

A special staged reading presented by Culture Project and Middle Collegiate Church, and hosted by Judson Memorial Church.

On October 6th, at Judson Memorial Church, Danny Glover, Kathleen Chalfant and Linda Powell led a staged reading of Emmett, Down in My Heart by Clare Coss. Directed by Kenny Leon, Tony Award winner and Emmy nominee for A Raisin in the Sun revival on Broadway and ABC. The legacy of activist programming at Judson Memorial Church, the dynamic multi-racial and multicultural mission of Middle Collegiate Church, and Culture Project’s history of social advocacy programming makes this one time event especially unique.

Written by acclaimed playwright and psychotherapist, Clare Coss, Emmett, Down in My Heart is a profoundly moving play inspired by a disgraceful landmark event in the history of our country: the 1955 lynching of fourteen year old Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta. This is a vital play for our time. The intertwined stories of Emmett Till, his mother Mrs. Till-Mobley, and white school teacher Roanne Taylor all collide with the historic moment of the smoldering civil rights movement, where this tragedy helped to ignite an ongoing process of change. Themes of white silence and responsibility emerge amidst the harmonic balm of gospel hymns sung by the Middle Collegiate Church Gospel Choir to create a rich, dramatic work that touches the heart and provokes thought and action.

Mamie Till-Mobley’s monumental choice to have an open casket for her son begins her transformation from a private grieving mother to an activist for justice. Roanne Taylor, a white high school teacher who heard Emmett scream and did not act, comes face to face with her denial and failure to act as she begins her own journey from fear to recognition and involvement. Today, at this defining moment for our nation, this play provides an opportunity for audiences to see how each character negotiates the struggle for identity and humanity in our embattled world. We follow them on their individual paths to meet the limits and open the infinite possibilities of societal advancement and confront how race is embedded in our social narrative.