Theater project 'Blood at the Root' to visit Penn State York on Feb. 6

“Blood at the Root” is a new play by Dominique Morisseau ("Detroit ’67," "Sunset Baby") and directed by Steve Broadnax, the head of Penn State’s Graduate Acting program at University Park. “Blood at the Root” comes to Penn State York on Thursday, Feb. 6, in their Pullo Family Performing Arts Center (The Pullo Center). The play, at 7 p.m., is free and open to the public. 

This performance of “Blood at the Root” is being offered in collaboration with Penn State Harrisburg, Penn State Mont Alto and Penn State University Park. In addition to the performance at York, the company will perform at campuses throughout the Penn State system this spring, followed by an international tour in the summer.

The work, commissioned by the Penn State’s School of Theatre, is inspired by the “Jena Six,” a group of young black men in Jena, La., who were charged with attempted murder after assaulting a white student at their high school in 2007. Previous assaults on black students had gone largely unpunished, and the conviction and sentencing of the Jena Six serve as a strong reminder of racial injustice in the United States. “Blood at the Root” follows six high school students at fictional Cedar High as they learn to look past their own experiences in order to see things from a different perspective.

The message proved universal when the company premiered the new play in a successful three-week tour of South Africa.

“The response was electric all across the country,” said company member Tyler Reilly. “Everywhere we went, people told us how wonderful it was that we were doing this show in their town. They thought we had written the play specifically for them, with their specific issues in mind.” 

The overwhelming response that “Blood at the Root” has had at home and abroad led to the rare opportunity of being invited back to the historic Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa, as a part of their 2014 season for the month of June. In addition, the company is well on their way to showcasing their work in a European tour, including an August engagement at the Edinburg Festival Fringe in Scotland.

Their main stage premiere at the Downtown Theatre in State College runs March 28 to April 5. More information about ticket reservations may be found on the School of Theatre website, Before their opening night in University Park, the company is performing their Penn State campus tour throughout the commonwealth, beginning Jan. 30. 

Despite its decidedly American setting, the play’s specificity resonated with international audiences, who recognized themselves, their culture and their issues in the piece. Weaving music, dance and poetry to stunning effect, “Blood at the Root” has proven in the U.S. and abroad that this important story is not only one that needs to be told, it is one that needs to be seen.

More information about “Blood at the Root” can be found at

Last Updated January 29, 2014