BLOOD AT THE ROOT
By: Dominique Morisseau
Director: Tracey Copeland Halter
Scenic Designer: Kirsten Jolly
Lighting Designer: Kaylin Gess
Sound Designer: Amoirie Perteet
Costume Designer: Katie Carrillo
Venue/Company: LAB Theater/Clarence Brown Theatre
ABOUT THIS SHOW
Blood at the Root is an ensemble-driven drama inspired by the true story of the Jena Six; a group of black students who were arrested for attempted murder for a school fight in 2006. Morisseau masterfully re-tells this story through the eyes of several students from a variety of backgrounds, that attend the fictional Cedar High School. Over the course of this play we see how the actions of one girl, Raylynn, shake and unravel a community in the early 2000s in Louisiana. Raylynn, a black high schooler, decides to run for class president and question the racial divides and structures in her school by sitting under a tree outside of the school where the white high schoolers usually sit. The next day, nooses are discovered hanging from the same tree. Tensions rise amongst the student body and a fight breaks out in the cafeteria, incited by the usage of slurs and name calling, and De’Andre (Raylynn’s brother), along with other students, badly beat a white gay football player. De’Andre and the 5 other black students involved in the fight are arrested and jailed. This story is told mainly through music, rapping, movement/dance, and monologues from the main characters, creating a multi-dimensional collage of voices and viewpoints of the story.
Blood at the Root asks us to examine our own racial double standards, and shines a light on the racial inequities built into the fabric of our society. It challenges us to question how we can possibly dismantle decades of racial injustice, pain, and trauma. How can we dig up the tree and not just cut it down?
As lighting designer for this show, I am tasked with helping create a space that is highly expressive and ultimately, very abstract. It is my job to transform the space quickly, allowing this show to both exist in places that are highly familiar (American high schools), and places that are highly abstracted. In addition, it is my job to help underscore the mood/tone of each scene to help foster empathy for each of these characters. With the inclusion of highly rhythmic and choreographed dance pieces sprinkled throughout the show, it is also my intention to light these ensemble driven scenes in a manner inspired by hip-hop dance lighting.