Thursday, October 16, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Review: “Blood Done Sign My Name” Is a Hard-Hitting Script, Powerfully Performed by Playwright Mike Wiley | Triangle Arts and Entertainment

“Blood Done Sign My Name” Is a Hard-Hitting Script, Powerfully Performed by Playwright Mike Wiley | Triangle Arts and Entertainment

“Blood Done Sign My Name” Is a Hard-Hitting Script, Powerfully Performed by Playwright Mike Wiley

Posted by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle+ • June 2nd, 2014 •

Author Timothy B. Tyson’s memoir of racial tensions in Oxford during the 1960s and 1970s has been adapted for stage by Mike Wiley, an actor and playwright based in Raleigh, NC. Blood Done Sign My Name is the second in this year’s Theatre Raleigh “Hot Summer Nights” series.

As the real-life Eddie McCoy, who attended the Thursday May 29th, performance and participated in the talkback discussion afterwards, said of the effects of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “They didn’t just open the door up and say ‘Y’all come in, integration done come.’ Somebody was bruised and kicked and knocked around — you better believe it.” This story brings that truth to life.

Token integration, the smile that accompanied the denial, was the standard in Oxford, NC (as it was in other places as well, it must be added). Not much changed, except the veneer of courtesy. When Henry “Dickie” Marrow, a recently returned Vietnam veteran, was beaten brutally and then shot in the head right out on a town street in broad daylight, a stirring, a movement infused the black population of Oxford, led by Mr. McCoy and other Vietnam vets. It brought the Oxford white leadership to its knees and possibly to some understanding of how the future might be viewed.

Director Serena Ebhardt has carefully and meticulously blocked her single actor around the stage to best express his uncanny ability to shift from character to character, dozens of discrete characters in all, male and female, white and black, old and young. The transition from character to character is so subtle that it is sometimes astonishing. Ebhardt has also positioned and woven in the extraordinary vocalisms of the renowned gospel singer Mary D. Williams, smoothly and dramatically and beautifully.

Mike Wiley is a superb actor. He has not only the ability to transform himself into a myriad of different characters without even changing costume, but he gives each of them a sharp portrayal and brings a depth of emotion to each part. Wiley possesses seemingly limitless energy, as attested by his returning from his curtain call after an impressively vigorous performance and displaying the same spirited level for nearly a half hour during the post-performance talkback.

Gospel singer Mary D. Williams has a voice that has been compared to Mahalia Jackson, and that is entirely understandable. She can fill the room with a pianissimo whisper and fill the soul with a full throated forte; and, working together, she and Wiley involve the audience and invoke our memories by pulling us into singing some of the freedom cries of the 1960s.

We are fortunate that Tim Tyson, the award-winning author of this story, is a senior research scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies and a visiting professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture in the Divinity School at Duke University.

SECOND OPINION: May 28th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods:

Theatre Raleigh presents BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME, Written and Performed by Mike Wiley, at 8 p.m. June 4-6, 2 and 8 p.m. June 7, and 2 p.m. June 8 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $27 ($25 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).

BOX OFFICE: 866-811-4111 or

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-480-5166.

SHOW:,, and

VIDEO PREVIEW (by Minnow Media):






Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story (2004 autobiographical book): (Random House) and (Wikipedia).

Timothy B. Tyson (Chapel Hill, NC author and historian): (Wikipedia).

The Book: (Google Books).

Blood Done Sign My Name (2008 play): (official web page).

Study Guide: (Mike Wiley Productions).

Mike Wiley (Raleigh, NC playwright/performer): (official website), (Facebook page), and (Twitter page).

Serena Ebhardt (Apex, NC director): (EbzB Productions bio), (Facebook page), and (Twitter page).


Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Compliment: Not just a job.

And thank you, David for your inspired work.  You and Serena don’t just have a job – you have a mission.  So glad we can work together.  

Marsha Warren
Executive Director
Paul Green Foundation

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Serena Ebhardt directs World Premiere Of New Johnny Johnson Musical With Book by Paul Green and Music by Kurt Weill


David Navalinsky
UNC Department of Dramatic Art (919) 962­1557


Kenan Theatre Company Presents World Premiere Of New Johnny Johnson Musical With Book by Paul Green and Music by Kurt Weill

Chapel Hill, NC — The world premiere of the new edition of Johnny Johnson by Paul Green and Kurt Weill, with text and music not heard since 1937, will be staged at the University of North Carolina. Performances will take place in the Kenan Theatre, Center for Dramatic Art on Thursday, November 20th at 8pm, Friday, November 21st at 8pm (post­show discussion), Saturday, November 22nd at 8pm (pre­show symposium), Sunday, November 23rd at 2pm, and Monday, November 24th at 5pm. Tickets are $10, $5 for students. For reservations and information, please visit

It is World War I. The United States of America, having pledged to remain neutral, is pulled into the fight in order to make the world safe for democracy “over there.” Lowly American tombstone cutter, Johnny Johnson, has been persuaded to enlist in the U.S. army both by his sweetheart, Minny Belle Tompkins, and by President Woodrow Wilson’s promise of “a war to end all wars.” But confronted by the horrors of the trenches in France, he is outraged at the absurdity of it all, and by dint of laughing­gas, he fools the Allied generals into calling a cease­fire. Johnny is arrested, shipped back to America, and locked up in a lunatic asylum for his “peace monomania.” Released some twenty years later, he makes a living selling handmade toys as the trumpets of war once more sound in the distance.

This premiere features modern dance created by choreographer Heather Tatreau from UNC’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science. Additionally the flexible set design by Julia Warren is saturated with archival photos projected onto non­traditional surfaces and curated by Cameron Kania. Director Serena Ebhardt’s vision reveals the context of Johnny Johnson’s journey by including relevant historical and cultural events of the time period not mentioned in
the text — from silent film stars to lynchings to women’s suffrage. The cast is composed of UNC Students, 18 ­ 22 years­old, the same age of soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the “war to end all wars” one ­hundred years ago.

When the German­Jewish composer Kurt Weill sought exile in the United States in September 1935, he wanted to continue his work in musical theater begun by way of his collaborations in Berlin in the late 1920s with Bertholt Brecht, including Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) and Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny). These were hard­hitting political works that used music in new theatrical ways to support a radical political agenda.

In New York, Weill teamed up with the left­wing Group Theatre, who put him in contact with the prominent North Carolina playwright, Paul Green, who at that time was on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Group’s first production (in 1931) had been Green’s The House of Connelly, and his interests in theatrical music were well known. Weill visited Chapel Hill in May 1936 (staying at the Carolina Inn), and during the summer he and Green worked together with the Group on Johnny Johnson, which opened on Broadway on 19 November, 1936 (Lee Strasberg was the director). It was intended to be the first of three collaborations between the composer and
playwright; in 1937, Green asked Weill to write the music for
The Lost Colony (1937), and that same year they worked on a historical pageant celebrating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. constitution—but neither came to fruition, and The Lost Colony’s music was instead written mostly by the North Carolina composer Lamar Stringfield.

Johnny Johnson was picked up with some enthusiasm by the Federal Theatre Project, with productions in Boston and Los Angeles in May 1937. Here Green and Weill sought to restore some of the drastic cuts to the work that the Group Theatre had made in the run up to the premiere: given that the Group was committed to Stanislavski’s acting “method,” it had grown more and more nervous about the music. However, that more complete FTP version of Johnny Johnson has since lain hidden in the archives; those few productions of the work since 1936–37 were based on an incomplete, inadequate text.

Some of this archival material survives in the Southern Historical Collection in UNC’s Wilson Library, some in the National Archives (College Park, MD), and some in the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library at Yale University. These newly uncovered sources provided the basis for the critical edition of Johnny Johnson prepared by Tim Carter, David G. Frey Distinguished Professor of Music at UNC and recently issued by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. This edition won the Claude V. Palisca Award of the American Musicological Society for an outstanding scholarly edition or translation in the field of musicology published during 2012.

The world premiere of the new Johnny Johnson is led by a dedicated production team. Serena Ebhardt, Paul & Elizabeth Green Scholar and UNC alumna, serves as director. Dr. Louise Toppin, professor and chair of the UNC music department, serves as musical director. Heather Tatreau serves as choreographer. Dr. Evan Feldman serves as conductor. David Navalinsky, director of undergraduate productions of the UNC Department of Dramatic Art serves as producer.

Johnny Johnson is a major collaboration between UNC’s Department of Dramatic Art and Department of Music and is part a year­long conversation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during 2014­2015 focused on the legacy of World War I. The World War I Centenary Project features undergraduate and graduate courses, seminars, lectures, conferences, workshops, exhibitions, dramatic performances, music and dance events, and workshops for K­12 teachers. For more information, visit


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