North Carolina writer Tim Tyson is known for his 2004 autobiographical book Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, and the 2010 movie about the racially charged murder of Henry “Dickie” Marrow by two white men in the town of Oxford NC, in May of 1970. In the aftermath of the acquittal of the men accused of the murder, the story continues to be a major incident in the history of gradual desegregation in the South.
Raleigh, NC actor and playwright Michael Wiley has adapted Blood Done Sign My Name for stage, and the full-cast version of show premiered in Raleigh Little Theatre’s recently renovated Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, on May 11, the very same date of the murder in 1970. This is a powerful show, although it may not settle well on some ears; but it does have moments of comedic content.
RLT guest director Joseph Megel manages a cast of 19, several of whom play multiple roles, so this can be called a big show. Five actors play various ages of two characters. It is an action-filled show, as well; and the dramatic level is always vibrant.
The set is a wonder, created by Sonya Drum, with a simplicity that is skillful. It makes the many scene changes surprisingly fast and easy.
Jenny Mitchell’s costumes reflect the times and the characters well, and at one point will startle you and then surprise you at the agile mind of Ms. Mitchell.
Music director and character actor Juan Isler, who plays three roles in this show, leads some marvelous gospel music and sings at least one solo, displaying a great talent. The blocking and sweeping maneuvers of the large cast is managed by movement director Amy White, with the skill of a choreographer.
This story is narrated through the eyes of Tim Tyson, at three different ages, played by Mark Phialas as the older Tim, Justin Toyer as the college age Tim, and Benjamin Cashwell as the boyhood Tim. The original book’s author is well represented by all three fine actors.
Juanda LaJoyce Holley, whose beautiful singing voice and lovingly gentle personal carriage are inspiring, plays three characters with extraordinary dignity.
Vernon Tyson, Tim’s father, and a man of unusual integrity and courage, a Methodist minster who instilled a serious probity into his sons, is played by Kevin Leonard. Leonard brings a sense of familiarity with principles to the role, and the sturdiness to employ them.
Vernon Tyson’s youngest child, Vern, is played by Matthew Bain, who also plays Tyson’s boyhood Gerald Teel, and makes the characters distinct.
JaJuan Cofield plays Dickie Marrow and two other roles, Golden Frinks and Gamblin’ Man. He is a high-energy actor, who fills all three roles with a free and easy happiness with life and a deep-seated resentment of the circumstances of black life. The role of Dickie Marrow also carries the sense of respect that Marrow demands as a Vietnam vet.
Marrow’s fellow Vietnam vet Eddie McCoy is played by Germona Sharp in a bit of unconventional casting. But she is not at all miscast in the role.
Daniel P. Wilson covers five roles, including well-known writer Thad Stem, the Grand Dragon of the KKK, older Gerald, Roger Oakley, and White Man, adapting quickly to this wide variety of parts.
The entire cast did fine jobs telling this important story about what hate looks like. We congratulate RLT for bringing this thought-provoking drama to remind us what destruction bigotry can do.
SECOND OPINION: May 9th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW Interview with RLT artistic director Patrick Torres, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-RALEIGH-LITTLE-THEATRES-Artistic-Director-Patrick-Torres-Says-BLOOD-DONE-SIGN-MY-NAME-Speaks-to-National-Experience-Right-Now-20180509; April 28th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article209817894.html and April 10th preview by David Menconi: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article207477814.html.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME, a new play by Mike Wiley, based on the book by Dr. Timothy B. Tyson, at 8 p.m. May 12, 3 p.m. May 13, 8 p.m. May 17-19, 3 p.m. May 20, 8 p.m. May 24-26, 3 p.m. May 27, 8 p.m. May 31-June 2, and 3 p.m. June 3 in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $25 ($21 students and seniors 62+), except all seats $15 on Sunday, May 13th.
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0Sd000000jOMUSEA4.
SHOW: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/blood-done-sign-my-name/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/161145564571910/.
RLT‘S 2017-18 SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/tickets/memberships.html.
PRESENTER: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 3 p.m. Sunday, May 20th, performance.
Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story (2004 autobiographical crime story): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Done_Sign_My_Name (Wikipedia).
The Book: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Dr. Timothy B. “Tim” Tyson (N.C. writer and historian, visiting professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture at Duke University Divinity School, and senior research scholar at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies): https://web.archive.org/web/20100613051317/http://www.divinity.duke.edu/portal_memberdata/ttyson/ (Duke faculty bio), https://documentarystudies.duke.edu/people/tim-tyson (Duke Center for Documentary Studies bio), https://www.facebook.com/timothy.tyson (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/timothybtyson (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Tyson (Wikipedia).
Blood Done Sign My Name (2008 play): http://mikewileyproductions.com/fwp_portfolio/blood-done-sign-my-name/ (official web page) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Tyson#Adaptations (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: http://www.mikewileyproductions.com/pdfs/plays/bdsmn/BDSMNCollege.pdf (Mike Wiley Productions).
Mike Wiley (Raleigh, NC playwright and actor): http://mikewileyproductions.com/#s-home (official website), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1211650/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/mike.wiley.77 (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/MIKEWILEYPRODS (Twitter page).
Joseph Megel (Pittsboro, NC director and artist in Residence at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): https://comm.unc.edu/people/department-faculty/joseph-megel/ (UNC faculty bio), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm4904540/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/joseph.megel (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/JosephMegel (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 Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.