In an effort to make the theatre experience more immersive during this time of streamed performances, the North Carolina Stage Company (Asheville) has worked some technological magic with Mike Wiley’s production of Blood Done Sign My Name. Unlike other Zoom performances, in which the audience is not visible, during this performance, each participant’s box is projected on a screen so Wiley can see the audience. Wiley demands the audience be more fully present, witness the story, and at times, even calls upon viewers to participate directly. It is an innovative approach that adds to the power of this play.
Based on Timothy Tyson’s best-selling 2004 book, the story focuses on the events surrounding the 1970 murder of Henry “Dickie” Marrow, a black Vietnam war vet, by three white men. Set in Oxford, North Carolina, Tyson, who was 10 at the time of these events, chronicles the racial division of the town along with his father’s preeminent role during the protests and civil rights marches following the acquittal of the white men responsible for Marrow’s murder.
Wiley, who has performed this one-man show for over a decade, effectively channels each character. He delineates them with physical gestures, distinctive accents, and mannerisms, gliding through these snapshots to create a powerful portrait of the complex and devastating effect of racism on a community. While the staging is minimal, projections add context. Mary D. Williams lends her powerful vocals to the piece at key moments, which underscores the mood.
Although this show has been performed around the Triangle multiple times in recent years, it seems to take on an even more conspicuous tone in light of the recent killing of black men and women by white police officers. It is a reminder of the racial history of this country, and how that history seems to keep repeating itself. Clearly, we still have much reckoning to do.
Blood Done Sign My Name runs through September 27th. For ticket information, visit the North Carolina Stage Company website.