/  03.09.2022

When theater magazine Playbill announced that the late Emmett Till’s story would be told in an opera, the news didn’t smooth over so well for some in the Black community. The “Emmett Till, A New American Opera” is set to premier on March 23 at New York City’s John Jay College.

The production was written by a white woman name Clare Coss, whose written other works around Till’s story, and even has a main character played by a white actress. Playbill describes Coss’ imagining centered around fictional character Roanne Taylor, a white woman who “is against Jim Crow laws, segregation and the racial inequality that she sees around her but remains silent.”

The synopsis continued, “[Taylor] is the opera’s only fictional character and represents what Martin Luther King Jr. called the ultimate tragedy, “the silence of the good people.” Featuring both a Black Chorus and a white Chorus.

Coss will incorporate those who were actually involved in Till’s story such as his mother, Mamie Till, and his accuser Carolyn Bryant whose accounts led to the teen’s tragic demise. The opera surprisingly has assistance from other creatives in the arts such as the Harlem Chamber Players and Harlem Arts Alliance. Her bold effort to adapt the story into an opera comes after her 2013 prize-winning play, “Emmett, Down in My Heart.”

After the magazine tweeted the announcement, an overwhelming amount of comments quickly flooded with more than 3,000 quote tweets and 70 retweets from those not in favor of the production’s green light for such a monumental moment in Black History.

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