'Blood at the Root' coming April 17 to Altoona

"Blood at the Root," a new play by rising star Dominique Morisseau ("Detroit ’67," "Sunset Baby") will be performed by students in the Graduate Acting program at University Park. Under the direction of Steve Broadnax, the company will perform at campuses throughout the Penn State system this spring, followed by an international tour in the summer.

A performance at Penn State Altoona will be at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 17, in the Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts. Free tickets are available in the Office of Student Life.

The work, commissioned by the 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 served 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, this June. Continuing the mission of bringing this work to the world, the company is well on its way to making a European tour, which includes the world famous Edinburg Festival Fringe in Scotland, a reality in August.

Despite its decidedly American setting, the play’s specificity resonates with international audiences who see 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 story is not only one that needs to be told, it is one that needs to be seen.

Last Updated April 15, 2014