Mike Wiley Productions’
Thursday, Feb 25, 2016
7:30PM Public Show Time: $10 Adult; $8 Senior (65+);
Mike Wiley Productions’ JACKIE ROBINSON: A GAME APART
A Game Apart provides a glimpse of Jackie Robinson’s life during a bygone era of separate and unequal locker rooms, of whites only hotels, and of restaurants with only a back door for colored athletes to enter. Witness the hopeless humiliation of a star player who was showered with adulation on the field and became a second-hand citizen when he walked off the diamond. Meet Jackie’s compatriots fighting the same battles between the end zones, inside the ring and around the track. A Game Apart is a powerful lesson of courage through dedication, perseverance, and leadership.
Acclaimed actor and playwright Mike Wiley has spent the last decade fulfilling his mission to bring educational theatre to young audiences and communities across the country. In the early days of his career, Wiley found few theatrical resources to shine a light on key events and figures in African-American history. To bring these stories to life, he started his own production company.
Play Duration: 50 minutes (9:30 AM and 1:00 PM school showings) and 85 minutes (7:30 PM public showing)
Audience: appropriate for grades 3 and higher, as well as a general audience.
The Setting: Modern Day
Themes: Racism, hope, determination, nonviolence
Jackie Robinson – National baseball hall of fame member, broke baseball’s color barrier
Mallie Robinson – Jackie’s mother
Mack Robinson – Jackie’s brother and Olympic track and field athlete
Isaac Murphy – Kentucky Derby Champion
Langston Hughes – Famous American writer
Fritz Pollard – American football star The Mayor of Clarksville, Tennessee in 1960
Branch Rickey – President of Brooklyn Dodgers (1940s)
Charley Thomas – Ohio Wesleyan baseball player
Joe Louis – Professional Boxer
This program is supported in part by the Georgia Council fo the Arts through the appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly. GCA is a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Mike Wiley | Overview of Wiley Productions' play reel
Meet Mike Wiley
Over the past decade, the region has come to admire Mike Wiley’s series of intensely researched—and brilliantly crafted—original one-person shows that have illuminated significant (but frequently neglected) events in America’s long and problematic racial history. Wiley's unerring ear for dialogue, acute editorial sense of scene, and significant gifts as an actor and a mimic have made solo works like DAR HE: THE LYNCHING OF EMMETT TILL (partially captured in the film EMPTY SPACE, which took honors at last year’s Carrboro Film Festival) actually feel like an evening spent among an intense community of people, united at times and divided at others by a common dilemma.
Still, Mike Wiley’s new work is a strong—actually, make that necessary—reminder, not only of some of the starkest realities of the segregated South, but of the astounding resilience of those who chose to stand against it. The production’s scrupulous accounting of the very real divisions among the leaders of the civil rights movement, their own crises of conscience and cowardice, and the “measured” political responses of government representatives (including then-U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy), adds appreciable depth, dimension and veracity to the times depicted. Strongly recommended.
Wiley says he does plays like Blood Done Sign My Name in order to shine a light on stereotypes and racism born of ignorance and fear. “When we were children,” says Wiley, “we were scared of the dark… because we didn’t know what was in the dark. We thought that box in the corner was a monster because we didn’t have the lights on to tell us that it was just a box. But when the lights came on and we saw it was just a box, the fear disappeared. The same logic can be applied to our perceptions of other cultures or religions or races. We turn the light on. We figure out who they are. We learn about them. Then we’re not afraid of them anymore."
At the Booth on Thursday theater goers experienced plenty of shining light. They saw the kind of brightness that accompanies the heat of a fiery performance. It was on full display with Wiley at the helm of no less than twenty separate character portrayals. From young ten-year-old Tim Tyson, to his father and main protagonist, Reverend Vernon Tyson, to Tyson’s mother and various Oxford residents, to the story’s antagonists Robert and Larry Teel, Wiley shifts into character with the ease and aplomb.
One-man shows are somewhat of a rarity in theater today as television- and action drama-nursed audiences seem to demand nonstop motion and special effects over smart dialogue and nuanced acting. Of those that make it to the stage, Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain, for example, most allow actors the luxury of remaining within character for an entire performance. With BDSMN, Wiley has no such succor.
In order to advance the story and portray the attitudes, tension, and emotion surrounding the events that occurred in the spring of 1970, he must show us the faces and souls of all those who lived through this unlikely flashpoint in American civil rights history. Wiley has no foil other than his own chameleon-like portrayals to play off of, yet he shows the depth and breadth of his craft in making the audience believe he can be in one moment the elder Teel, a racist Klansman, and civil rights activist Golden Frinks the next.
Wiley wears each successive character like a familiar flannel shirt, comfortable in the skin; he assumes the posture, facial expressions, and uncanny vocal impersonations that carry the drama to its saddened, yet unsurprising conclusion. Ms. Williams’s gripping rendition of the title song sung both at the opening and the close with no accompaniment are pitch perfect and stirring audio commentary that go far in setting the tone and overall authentic feel to both the period and the place. She punctuates Wiley’s performance with just the right combination of soft and melodic undertones and roiling spirituals, which sets the mood appropriately for the play’s dialogue.
Theater at its most powerful occurs when deep connections between material, performers, and audiences occur. This is one such experience that delivers on all counts. Watching Wiley is akin to watching history unfold. And his goal of invoking thought from his audience is achieved.
Meet Jackie Robinson
Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson was an exceptional athlete, activist and businessman. In 1939 he enrolled in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and was the first athlete in school history to letter in four sports – football, baseball and track and field. Jackie was drafted into the Army in 1942 and eventually became a lieutenant. After the Army, Jackie played in the Negro Baseball League. Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, felt strongly about bringing African-American players to the league and asked Jackie if he would consider playing for his team. Jackie was told he would be offered a contract if he had “guts enough not to fight back” when racial slurs were shouted from the stands or if players attempted to injure him on the field. Despite enormous pressure, Robinson earned the Rookie of the Year award in his first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In his second year, Jackie won the national League MVP award and batting title. Eventually, Jackie won respect and became an inspiration and a symbol of opportunity for all African Americans.