Light hits the stage in all directions, creating an ominous silhouette of the set. Three nooses hanging off the branch of a tall tree takes the center of the stage, a symbol of racial tension that will drive the story about to unfold.
Based on the true story of the Jena Six, California Repertory Company will be presenting its rendition of “Blood At The Root” at the University Theater March 5 to March 14.
The play, written by Dominique Morisseau, is set in 2006 Louisiana and is based on the true story of the Jena Six. The Jena Six refers to the six Black teenagers who were charged with attempted murder for the brutal beating of a white student, sparking outrage across the country for the excessive and discriminatory charges.
The six-piece ensemble consists of theater arts majors: Mikayla Conley, Noelle Howe, Matt Avery, Chloe Hayes, Brandon King and Javen Phillips.
The play revolves around the life of Raylynn, a Black teenager aspiring to be a journalist. However, according to the cast, the production does not have a true protagonist or antagonist, but rather an equal ensemble of six.
“There’s no villain, it’s a group of students that live within a system that’s really screwing people over,” Avery said.
Emerging themes in the play include reflections on racism and segregation.
“I think it provides a lot of different avenues of thought, versus having just one narrative and you’re either on one side or the other,” Howe said. “There’s a lot of gray area that the characters in the show explore and it offers insight into a lot of different peoples perspectives.”
The way the justice system handles cases involving Black men and the unfair treatment they are given is something Conley hopes the audience takes away from the performance.
“They’re sentenced at a higher rate and given harsher punishments than a lot of their white counterparts,” Conley said, “and it starts early, it starts very early. As early as high school. So, seeing that perspective, and how it’s a cycle too, is what I hope they leave with.”
The production runs for 90 minutes straight without an intermission. “Blood At The Root” will be playing at the University Theater March 5 to March 14. Tickets are $23 for general admission and $18 for students. They can be purchased online or at the box office in the Theater Arts Building.