Author Timothy B. Tyson’s memoir of racial tensions in Oxford during the 1960s and 1970s has been adapted for stage by Mike Wiley, an actor and playwright based in Raleigh, NC. Blood Done Sign My Name is the second in this year’s Theatre Raleigh “Hot Summer Nights” series.
As the real-life Eddie McCoy, who attended the Thursday May 29th, performance and participated in the talkback discussion afterwards, said of the effects of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “They didn’t just open the door up and say ‘Y’all come in, integration done come.’ Somebody was bruised and kicked and knocked around — you better believe it.” This story brings that truth to life.
Token integration, the smile that accompanied the denial, was the standard in Oxford, NC (as it was in other places as well, it must be added). Not much changed, except the veneer of courtesy. When Henry “Dickie” Marrow, a recently returned Vietnam veteran, was beaten brutally and then shot in the head right out on a town street in broad daylight, a stirring, a movement infused the black population of Oxford, led by Mr. McCoy and other Vietnam vets. It brought the Oxford white leadership to its knees and possibly to some understanding of how the future might be viewed.
Director Serena Ebhardt has carefully and meticulously blocked her single actor around the stage to best express his uncanny ability to shift from character to character, dozens of discrete characters in all, male and female, white and black, old and young. The transition from character to character is so subtle that it is sometimes astonishing. Ebhardthas also positioned and woven in the extraordinary vocalisms of the renowned gospel singer Mary D. Williams, smoothly and dramatically and beautifully.
Mike Wiley is a superb actor. He has not only the ability to transform himself into a myriad of different characters without even changing costume, but he gives each of them a sharp portrayal and brings a depth of emotion to each part. Wiley possesses seemingly limitless energy, as attested by his returning from his curtain call after an impressively vigorous performance and displaying the same spirited level for nearly a half hour during the post-performance talkback.
Gospel singer Mary D. Williams has a voice that has been compared to Mahalia Jackson, and that is entirely understandable. She can fill the room with a pianissimo whisper and fill the soul with a full throated forte; and, working together, she and Wiley involve the audience and invoke our memories by pulling us into singing some of the freedom cries of the 1960s.
We are fortunate that Tim Tyson, the award-winning author of this story, is a senior research scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies and a visiting professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture in the Divinity School at Duke University.
SECOND OPINION: May 28th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/blood-done-sign-my-name/Event?oid=4157947.
Theatre Raleigh presents BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME, Written and Performed by Mike Wiley, at 8 p.m. June 4-6, 2 and 8 p.m. June 7, and 2 p.m. June 8 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $27 ($25 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 866-811-4111 or https://web.ovationtix.com/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-480-5166.
SHOW: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/blood-done-sign-my-name/, https://www.facebook.com/BloodDone, and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/blood-done-sign-my-name-theatre-raleigh-s-hot-summer-nights-series-private-event-4634.
VIDEO PREVIEW (by Minnow Media): http://vimeo.com/11385671.
PRESENTER: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theatre-Raleigh/349124511834045, and https://twitter.com/TheatreRaleigh.
Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story (2004 autobiographical book): http://www.randomhouse.com/book/181459/blood-done-sign-my-name-by-timothy-b-tyson (Random House) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Done_Sign_My_Name (Wikipedia).
Timothy B. Tyson (Chapel Hill, NC author and historian): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Tyson (Wikipedia).
The Book: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Blood Done Sign My Name (2008 play): http://www.mikewileyproductions.com/play_blood.html (official web page).
Study Guide: http://www.mikewileyproductions.com/pdfs/plays/bdsmn/BDSMNCollege.pdf (Mike Wiley Productions).
Mike Wiley (Raleigh, NC playwright/performer): http://www.mikewileyproductions.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/mike.wiley.77 (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/MIKEWILEYPRODS (Twitter page).
Serena Ebhardt (Apex, NC director): http://www.ebzb.org/serena/home.html (EbzB Productions bio), https://www.facebook.com/serenaebhardt (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/ebzb (Twitter page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.