Tuesday, June 29, 2010

EbzB works with Warren Gentry & Associates on The Night Before Christmas Carol Film

EbzB is delighted with the filming, editing and post production work by Warren Gentry & Associates of Elliot Engel's "The Night Before Christmas Carol."  If you have an opportunity to work with these fine film artists, do it!

EbzB filmed in the State Library Room of the Capitol building in Raleigh, NC.
http://www.nchistoricsites.org/capitol/stat_cap/tour.htm#3floor   Built in 1842 - just one year before Charles Dickens composed his ghostly classic, "A Christmas Carol", this room provided the perfect film location for "The Night Before Christmas Carol."

EbzB spends the day at Concentrix Studios

EbzB Productions works with Concentrix Studios (in their super-swell, new location) doing post-production sound for the upcoming film version of Elliot Engel's "The Night Before Christmas Carol."  Visit http://www.concentrixmusic.com/studio.php to see this amazing facility.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Review/Compliment - Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till

Raleigh News & Observer

Apex-based actor-playwright weaves facts, questions
By Roy C. Dicks, Correspondent

CHAPEL HILL -- The basic facts of the Emmett Till case are well known. The 14 year-old African-American was brutally beaten and murdered in 1955 on a visit to relatives in Mississippi. His white assailants deemed this appropriate punishment for Till's whistling at a white girl. The assailants, who admitted in court to kidnapping the boy but denied the murder, were acquitted of all charges.
The recent re-examinations of the case, including documentary films and the exhumation of Till's body for DNA testing, have shed new light on the incident, while still leaving unanswered questions. Apex-based actor-playwright Mike Wiley has woven these facts and questions into a riveting evening of theater, "Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till." The cryptic main title becomes devastatingly clear within the show.
Describing the production as a one-man show is misleading, for Wiley portrays nearly two dozen characters during the 90-minute piece: black, white, male, female, young, old, city slicker, farm worker. The distinct differentiations of accent, voice range, body language and characters' mindset would be impressive enough if played one after another, but Wiley changes back and forth in an instant, often creating the illusion that two people are conversing. The barrage of characters is a little overwhelming at first, but the audience adjusts as they become familiar.
Wiley avoids caricature portraying the female characters, morphing easily into the giggling store clerk, the gregarious old aunt, the unapologetic mother of the murderers. He also finds enough genuine humor to give the horror some respite.
Wiley employs no changes of costume or makeup. His sole prop is a white cloth that can become a handkerchief, a whiskey bottle, even a headless chicken. Cigarettes, money, a bottle of Coke, a steering wheel -- all are mimed with skilled accuracy.
All of this could draw attention to the actor, the tour-de-force aspect overshadowing the subject matter. It is to Wiley's great credit that he focuses his formidable talents on the gut-wrenching story, allowing the audience to clearly understand each character's strengths and foibles. His portrayal of the white assailants is chilling, that of Till's grieving mother heart-rending.
This production is extremely confident and polished, thanks to the experienced eye of director Serena Ebhardt. There is no wasted gesture, no extra padding. The pacing of the first act is forceful and compelling as it leads up to the murder; the second act less so only because the courtroom and funeral scenes are innately less intense. Ben Davis' multimedia design enhances Wiley's projections of photos from the period and integrates the various sound effects, from gospel choirs to gunshots.
The piece is hard-hitting and unsparing, the depiction of the beating and mutilated body especially disturbing. But that should stop no one from attending this painful but necessary reminder of how far we've come -- and how far we still need to go -- in race relations in this country.

Review/Compliment - Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till

Chapel Hill NewsAngles of the Truth

By JESSICA ROCHA, STAFF WRITER


Fifty years ago, a black woman in Chicago put her 14-year-old son on a train to rural Mississippi to visit family. "Bo Till, you didn't even kiss me goodbye," Mamie Till Mobley tells her son, Emmett. "How do you know I'll ever see you again?"
Mamie told her son to mind his business, to "put a handle on those yeses and nos" with "ma'ams" and "sirs," and not to talk back to any white folks.
And when his stutter gets the best of him, Mamie said, just whistle it out.
But Bobo's whistle got directed at Carolyn Bryant, the wife of Roy Bryant Jr., who owned the local feed store.
A few days later the boy -- Emmett "Bobo" Till -- was kidnapped, beaten, killed and then thrown into the Tallahatchie River, where the body was found a few days later.
Till's death, his mother's decision to have an open-casket funeral, and a trial that acquitted two white men on murder charges shed new light on the country's legacy of racism.
Later, those same two men admitted they killed Till in an interview with Look magazine.
The story is now dissected in a play at Deep Dish Theater called "Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till," produced by EbzB Productions and Mike Wiley Productions.
The play isn't so much a condemnation of Till's murder as it is an attempt to come to terms with the tragedy by exploring what took place that day from different perspectives.
That's about 22 perspectives in all, said Mike Wiley, who wrote and stars in the one-man play.
"I wanted it to be a play where we see different camera angles," Wiley said. "We see different angles of the perceived truth."
Wiley plays every character in the 90-minute, one-man performance.
That includes Roy Bryant Jr., and J.W. Milam, the two men who later confessed to killing Till.
Wiley said that in order to make the characters believable, he had to try to understand the perspectives of Bryant and Milam.
Just as Till's Aunt Lizzie explains to the family that sometimes, in order to eat, one has to kill a chicken, Roy and J.W. say that in order to protect their way of life, Emmett had to be killed to protect white heritage.
"It ain't that we want to kill him (the chicken), it's that we had to," Aunt Lizzie says in the play.
Playing 22 characters requires strict choreography so the characters can fold into each other, but with enough physical cues that the audience can identify the changes. In a dance scene, Wiley switches characters between two people who are dancing with each other.
During Till's murder, the audience sees Roy and J.W. beat Till. It also sees Till take the beating. The audience also sees different versions of what may have happened at Bryant's store that led up to the whistling: Was Bo Till just working out his stutter? Was he acting on a dare to make a pass at a white woman? Was there some innocent flirtation between the two?
To prepare for the physically demanding performance, Wiley read lines while running on a treadmill.
"During some of the more physical parts, I would up the speed and push myself...to make sure I have the breath support," he said.
A white handkerchief serves as Wiley's primary prop: It serves as a chicken that he chases, he dabs sweat with it to show the heat, and he drapes it as an apron when he's playing a woman.
Wiley said he started writing the play in the fall of 2004.
Soon after, Till's body was exhumed to see whether any traces of evidence remained that would link anyone else to his death.
Music and photos projected onto a screen set each scene, from Bryant's store to the courtroom and then Till's funeral with an open casket so that people could see Till's mutilated face, which his mother displayed to show the disfigured face and cruelty of racism.
Though the play and its story have many dark moments, director and co-producer Serena Ebhardt said it's also "deeply hopeful.
"It's not about brutality so much as about the opportunity," she said. Ebhardt hopes civic organizations, church and university groups come out to see the play in an effort to start a dialogue, especially in light of the Duke lacrosse team rape allegations and racial violence that continues today around the country.
"This stuff is happening every single day," Ebhardt said. "This piece has the opportunity to do some healing."

Review/Compliment - Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till

Dar He Chronicles the Mississippi Murder
in 1955 of Chicago Teenager Emmett Till

By Robert W. McDowell
Triangle Theater Review
E-mail: RobertM748@aol.com

            EbzB Productions and Mike Wiley Productions will stage a joint presentation of Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till, a one-man show for mature audiences written and performed by critically acclaimed African-American actor Mike Wiley, June 8-11, 15-18, and 22-25 in the Deep Dish Theater at the Dillard's end of University Mall in Chapel Hill, NC. Serena Ebhardt of EbzB will direct this powerful play, which chronicles the true story of the August 1955 murder of 14-year-old Chicago teenager.
            Not knowing the cruel customs ofthe Jim Crow South, while visiting his uncle down south, Emmett Till whistled ata white woman named Carolyn Bryant at a grocery store in Money, Mississippi.Bryant’s husband, Roy, and hishalf-brother, J.W. Milam, dragged Till out of his bed in the middle of the night; brutally beat him; shot him in thehead; and then dumped his horribly mangled body in the Tallahatchie River,horrifying the nation, inspiring a biting ballad by Bob Dylan (The Death of Emmett Till), and providing a spark for the nascent Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South.
            Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were tried and acquitted in 67 minutes by an all-white, all-male jury, but later confessed to the murder during a paid interview with Look Magazine. Both men are now dead, and recent efforts to reopen the case and prove that Bryant and Milam had help in murdering Till and disposing of his body have yet to generate any indictments.
            Apex actress/director Serena Ebhardt recalls, "Mike Wiley brought this play to me in December of 2005. He had written it to perform himself. Mike asked me if I would consider directing it. We had collaborated on a production before, and we work very well together."
            Ebhardt says, "Actor Mike Wiley plays all the characters as we experience the lead-up [to the murder], different versions of the event from witnesses and the accused, the trial, and the aftermath. The play presents the historical facts of the event as well as exploring the unsolved mysteries of the case that remain to this day.
            She adds, "The play is a challenge. It's a challenge to perform, a challenge to direct, and a challenge to audiences. Mike has written a cinematic piece that seems as if it would only be doable in the medium of film. We had to work together to discover how to stage this story with a single actor, to represent many different voices and locations, while keeping everything clear for the audience. I also like all the potential morals of the story. I wanted to direct the play primarily because I admire Mike Wiley-- his work ethic, his mission, his talent, and his attitude. He is a dream to direct. He's an invested actor who does his homework. I knew that we would inspire each other to discovery."
            Ebhardt says, "Dar He premiered in February 2006 in a single performance booked at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. The show was created to be part of Mike Wiley Productions repertoire. Mike has several other one-man performances that he tours throughout the United States. After mutual investment in the production, Mike invited EbzB Productions (my production company) to share co-producer credit and continue to help develop and promote the show. We were honored!"
            In addition to director Serena Ebhardt, the show's production team includes multimedia designer Ben Davis and stage manager Ramona Traynor.
            "We had to work very hard on specific movement, transitions, and creating spaces on an empty stage" recalls Ebhardt, "In addition to tackling the cinematic quality of the script in a theatrical medium, the next biggest challenge was to create a show that can tour easily. This production will continue to be booked in different venues across the country. We even have a revised student version of the show that can be taken into schools to enhance civil rights studies.
           "As we created the show," Ebhardt explains, "we kept in mind that every aspect of the set needed to be portable. We have solid production values, but they are minimalist and fit neatly into Mike's SUV. Additionally, Mike and I put the burden of proof on the actor. The success of this play does not depend on production values at all. It depends solely on Mike Wiley's performance ability."
            Ebhardt says, the show's set is minimalist," with a [Microsoft] Power Point presentation on screen, a single office chair, and a reel-to-reel recorder"; the lighting is general lighting"; and the costumes are sepia toned."
            "Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till has a message that is important to revisit," claims Serena Ebhardt. In a time when race relations and hate crimes still occur, this play-- about an event that happened 50 years ago-- gives us some distance and a safe environment to think about and discuss issues that still confront us today. Additionally, the Emmett Till case was reopened by the FBI in 2004, Till's body was exhumed from the grave in 2005 to acquire DNA evidence. Recently, the FBI handed the case over to the D.A. in Mississippi to decide if the surviving remaining suspects in the case should be brought to trial. The result of the D.A.'s decision is pending this very day."

            EbzB Productions and Mike Wiley Productions present Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till Thursday-Saturday, June 8-10, 15-17, and 22-24, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 11, 18, and 25 at 3 p.m. at the Deep Dish Theater in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. $15 ($10 students and $13 seniors). 919/968-1515.