Dominique Morisseau's "Blood at the Root" premieres at Wayne State University’s Hilberry Gateway

The cast and creative team of "Blood at the Root" at Wayne State University during their first rehearsal. Photo by Madi Burt.

DETROIT, MI May 16, 2024 ⏤ The Underground Theatre Company at Wayne State University proudly presents "Blood at the Root,” by Detroit-native Dominique Morisseau, one of the most-produced playwrights of today. Directed by local Detroit actor and WSU senior Jesse Boyd-Williams, with choreography by graduating alumnae Hunter Martin, this student-led production will debut in the STUDIO at the Hilberry Gateway June 21-23, 2024. 

Morisseau’s title selection was inspired by the song "Strange Fruit,” performed by Billie Holiday in 1939. The song highlights the historic and tragic lynchings of African Americans in the South through imagery, as Holiday sings, “Southern trees bear a strange fruit, blood on the leaves and blood at the root.” Morisseau was commissioned by Pennsylvania State University in 2014 to create an original piece for the university’s graduate acting program under the direction of Steve H. Broadnax, with choreography by Aquila Kikora Franklin. "Blood at the Root” went on to captivate audiences in New York City at the National Black Theatre in 2016. 

poster for Blood at the Root by Dominique Morriseau
Blood at the Root - June 21-23, 2024

The play follows a group of high school students struggling to define their identities amid relentless injustice in America. Inspired by the real-life events of 2006 in Jena, Louisiana—where racial tensions erupted after white students hung nooses on a campus tree—the ensuing conflict led to the arrest of six Black students, known as the Jena Six, on charges of attempted murder. This incident sparked national outrage and highlighted deep-seated racial injustices worldwide. “Blood at the Root” explores these historical events through the perspectives of six high school students, incorporating hip-hop-inspired movement, powerful dialogue, and original sound by Eastern Michigan University alumnus Jwymon Williams. 

Morisseau’s work sheds light on the systemic racism that permeates the criminal justice system’s relentless racial double standards, and their profound impact on Black lives and families. The play confronts themes of race, homophobia, classism, and violence while maintaining humor and love throughout the 77-minute play. 

Join us for an unforgettable theatrical experience that promises to provoke thought, inspire dialogue, and challenge perspectives. There will be an opportunity for further discourse in a post-show talkback with the cast and special guests following the matinee, June 22nd at 2 p.m. Don’t miss the chance to witness this powerful student-driven performance. 

See all dates and times and purchase tickets online or by calling the Hilberry Gateway box office at (313) 577-2972. 

Media Contact:
Jesse Boyd-Williams 

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