Mosaic Theater to stage Ifa Bayeza’s groundbreaking ‘The Till Trilogy’

The series celebrating the life and legacy of Civil Rights icon Emmett Till will play in rotating repertory paired with a citywide Reflection Series.

Mosaic Theater Company opens its 2022/23 season — its first helmed by Artistic Director Reginald L. Douglas — with Ifa Bayeza’s highly anticipated theatrical anthology The Till Trilogy, on stage October 4 to November 20, 2022. The three-play cycle honors the life and legacy of Emmett Till, with Bayeza training a contemporary lens on a flashpoint in American history.

The plays that comprise The Till Trilogy are The Ballad of Emmett Till, on the journey of the boy from his home in Chicago to Money, Mississippi; Benevolence, on the ripple effects of the murder throughout the Delta region and beyond; and world premiere That Summer in Sumner, focusing on the quest for justice led by a group of Black journalists. The Till Trilogy will be directed by Talvin Wilks.

The productions will be staged simultaneously, in rotating repertory, for the very first time, with 10 actors playing 75 characters. Tickets are available at mosaictheater.org.

Emmett Till

The murder of Emmett Till remains one of the most pivotal moments in American history and ignited the modern Civil Rights Movement. Rooted in poetic, lyrical, and compassionate language, this landmark undertaking brings to life the indomitability of Till’s spirit, the tragedy of his death, a historic miscarriage of justice, and the indelible impact of his legacy.

The Till Trilogy continues a rich collaboration between playwright Bayeza and director Wilks, who also led Penumbra Theatre’s acclaimed productions of The Ballad of Emmett Till and Benevolence.

Additionally, Mosaic is partnering with more than 20 organizations on the companion Reflection Series, a citywide program of concerts, readings, and panels that offer audiences opportunities to creatively engage with themes of justice and activism. More information below.

ABOUT THE PLAYS 

The Ballad of Emmett Till
With music, magic, and humor, The Ballad of Emmett Till introduces Emmett, or “Bo,” a boisterous Chicago adolescent teeming with curiosity and excited about his summer trip to Mississippi. On this mythic journey, his fateful encounter at a country store changes his life and our nation forever.

That Summer in Sumner (world premiere)
Drawn from courtroom transcripts, news accounts, and government records, the world premiere That Summer in Sumner reimagines the Mississippi trial of the accused killers of Emmett Till and the quest of a team of African American reporters to uncover the truth and get new evidence before the Jim Crow court. With palpable energy, That Summer in Sumner takes audiences along for the ride on the reporters’ perilous — and sometimes hilarious — journey.

Benevolence
A poignant and powerful look into the ripple effects of Emmett Till’s murder, Benevolence follows two couples — one Black and one white — as they struggle with their knowledge of the killing and the toll it takes on their lives and love. With rich language and harrowing honesty, Benevolence invites audiences to reflect upon how our collective history still resonates in our personal lives today.

‘The Till Trilogy’ cast and creative team

ABOUT THE PERFORMANCES 

Tickets: Tickets are $50–$64 and can be purchased at mosaictheater.org.

Location: Sprenger Theatre at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, Washington, DC 20002

Performances: Productions in The Till Trilogy will be on stage from October 4 to November 20, 2022. The Till Trilogy previews will be Tuesday, October 4 through Thursday, October 6 at 7:30 PM. Thereafter, performances will be held on Wednesdays at 8 PM, Thursdays at 11 AM and 8 PM, Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM.

Box Office: The Box Office can be reached at (202) 399-7993 or boxoffice@atlasarts.org from 11 AM – 5 PM Monday through Friday, or two hours prior to a performance.

COVID Safety: Mosaic Theater aligns its safety protocols with those of the Atlas Performing Arts Center and Theatre Washington. Patrons will need to wear masks while attending a Mosaic performance, except while eating or drinking in designated locations. Masks must be worn regardless of vaccination status. Proof of vaccination will no longer be required.

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT

Ifa Bayeza is an award-winning playwright, director, novelist, and educator. Described as “breathtaking,” “staggering,” “extraordinarily lyrical,” and “triumphant,” her literary style and transcendent themes veer from the intimate to the mythic and compel us to re-examine the deeply embedded ideas we attach to race and gender. Plays include The Till Trilogy (The Ballad of Emmett TillThat Summer in Sumner, and Benevolence), reimagining the saga of 1955 Civil Rights icon Emmett Till; String Theory, on the 1839 Amistad slave ship survivors; Welcome to Wandaland, a childhood memoir; and Infants of the Spring, adapted from the classic Harlem Renaissance novel. She has written three musicals: the World War I love story Charleston Olio, a Fred Ebb Award finalist; Bunk Johnson, a blues poem on the legendary Jazz originalist, commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation; and KID ZERO, a theater-for-young-audiences hip-hop operetta. Her novel Some Sing, Some Cry was co-authored with her sister, Ntozake Shange. A 2022 MacDowell fellow, Bayeza was a finalist for the 2020 Herb Alpert Award in Theatre and for the 2020 Francesca Primus Prize. In 2018, she was the inaugural Humanist-in-Residence at the National Endowment for the Humanities. Honors for The Ballad of Emmett Till include the Edgar Award, the Backstage Garland Award, and fellowships from the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and Brown University. A graduate of Harvard University, Bayeza received her MFA in Theater from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The Till Trilogy marks her debut in the nation’s capital and at Mosaic Theater Company.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR

Talvin Wilks is a playwright, director, and dramaturg based in Minneapolis and New York City. His plays include Tod, the boy, TodThe Trial of Uncle S&MBread of HeavenAn American TriptychJimmy and Lorraine: A Musing, and As I Remember It with Carmen de Lavallade. Directing credits include The White CardThis Bitter EarthBenevolenceThe Ballad of Emmett Till (Penumbra Theatre), The Peculiar Patriot (National Black Theatre/Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company), Parks (History Theatre), Cannabis: A Viper Vaudeville (HERE Arts Center/La MaMa), and The Till Trilogy (Mosaic Theater Company). Dramaturgy credits include for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf (Broadway revival/Tony-nominated); Dreaming Zenzile (New York Theater Workshop); Between the World and Me (The Apollo Theater); Scat! and Walking with ‘Trane (Urban Bush Women); ink, BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, Mr. TOL E. RAncE (Camille A. Brown and Dancers); and In a Rhythm, A History, Necessary Beauty, Landing/Place, and Verge (Bebe Miller Company). He is a newly tenured Associate Professor in the Theatre Arts & Dance Department, University of Minnesota/Twin Cities and is a 2020 McKnight Theater Artist Fellow and a 2022 McKnight Presidential Fellow.

ABOUT THE REFLECTION SERIES

In conjunction with The Till Trilogy, Mosaic will lead a pioneering series of citywide events about the plays’ themes in The Till Trilogy Reflection Series. Produced in partnership with over 20 cultural organizations, this series of events offers audiences in every ward of Washington, DC, and beyond opportunities to engage with the themes of justice and activism explored in the plays.

Partner organizations include the ACLU; Anacostia Community Museum; Arena Stage; Atlas Performing Arts Center; Busboys & Poets; DC Public Library; Eaton DC; Folger Shakespeare Library; Ford’s Theatre; Gallaudet University; Georgetown University; Hill Center; Howard University; Imagination Stage; Library of Congress; National Parks Conservation Association; Olney Theatre Center; Round House Theatre; Shakespeare Theatre Company; Signature Theatre; Theater Alliance; THEARC Theater; Theater J and the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington, DC; Theatre Washington; Washington National Opera; Washington Performing Arts; and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

Events in The Till Trilogy Reflection Series include:

The Till Trilogy Sneak Peek and Discussion — a conversation with Ifa Bayeza and Dr. Melanie Adams of the Anacostia Community Museum
Saturday, September 10 at 2 PM
Anacostia Community Museum

Live! at the Library
Reflections from the Past, Present, and Future featuring playwright Ifa Bayeza, the Washington National Opera, and Howard University
Thursday, September 22 at 7 PM
Library of Congress

Race, Racial Justice, & Their Intersections with Art: A Conversation and Reading w/ Poet Terrance Hayes, Moderated by poet Teri Ellen Cross Davis
produced in collaboration with Folger Shakespeare Library and Hill Center’s Benjamin Drummond Emancipation Day Celebration
Tuesday, September 27 at 7 PM
Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital

Blue Chakra Lounge Spoken Word and Open Mic Event
produced in collaboration with Aggrey Co and the Eaton Hotel
Thursday, September 29 at 7 PM
Eaton Hotel DC

Georgetown University’s Racial Justice Institute presents South African artists Refiloe Lepere and Itumeleng Moeketsi
Sunday, October 2 at 7 PM
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (DC Public Library)

Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Shakespeare Hour Live
Wednesday, October 12 at 7 PM
Virtual event

Post-Show Conversation
Standing on the Frontlines: Black Mothers as Civil Rights Leaders
produced in collaboration with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and featuring the Coalition of Concerned Mothers and Harriet’s Wildest Dreams
Saturday, October 15 following 3 PM matinee
Atlas Performing Arts Center

 Ford’s Theatre’s Cabinet Conversations: The Emmett Till Antilynching Act
Thursday, October 20 at 4 PM
Virtual event

Post-Show Conversation
Telling Our Own Story: The Power of Black Journalism, featuring Dorothy Gilliam and Dr. Natalie Hopkinson of Howard University
Saturday, October 22 following 3 PM matinee
Atlas Performing Arts Center 

Post-Show Conversation
The Push for the Emmett Till National Park
produced in collaboration with the National Parks Conservation Association
and featuring Dr. Alan Spears
Saturday, October 29 following 3 PM matinee
Atlas Performing Arts Center

Post-Show Conversation
Reflections on Justice In Our City
produced in collaboration with ACLU DC
Saturday, November 5 following the 3 PM matinee
Atlas Performing Arts Center

Post-Show Conversation
Chicago Connections
Saturday, November 12 following the 3 PM matinee
Atlas Performing Arts Center

Art as Response to Tragedy Professional Development Curriculum for Educators
Ongoing, provided by Imagination Stage

The Signature Show featuring an original song inspired by The Till Trilogy
Date TBD
Signature Theatre

ABOUT THE COMPANY 

Mosaic Theater Company of DC produces bold, culturally diverse theater that illuminates critical issues, elevates fresh voices, and sparks connection among communities throughout our region and beyond. Under the leadership of the newly appointed Artistic Director Reginald L. Douglas and Managing Director Serge Seiden, Mosaic produces plays that spark conversation and connections amongst the DC Metro area’s diverse communities and sees itself as a neighbor and partner with those communities. By sharing stories that both entertain and enlighten, Mosaic uses art to build empathy amongst diverse people united by the magic of theater and hopes to build community by reflecting the people and the many cultures that call DC home.

SEE ALSO:
‘The Till Trilogy’ at Mosaic Theater Company (John Stoltenberg’s Magic Time! column about staged readings of the three plays, July 1, 2018)

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