This past Saturday, Millersville brought an exceptional actor to the Winter Center and his name is Mike Wiley. Graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Master of Fine Arts, Wiley made it his passion to use theater to capture important events and people in African-American history. He created his own production company in order to do just that. Wiley showcases his talents at many schools and communities and has been on networks such as The Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel. Among Wiley’s productions, he brought lives of important African-American figures to life such as Henry “Box” Brown and Emmett Till. Luckily for Millersville, Wiley preformed Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till this past Saturday at the Winter Center.
This one-man play depicted the life and tragic death of Emmett Till. Emmett Till lived in Chicago, Illinois with his mother. When he was 14, he travelled to Money, Mississippi to visit relatives. One day, he made the mistake of talking to a 21-year old Caucasian cashier name Carolyn Bryant at a local convenience store. A couple days later, Bryant’s husband Roy and brother J.W. Milam abducted Till from his Uncle’s house.
After, they proceeded to beat and mutilate Till. Roy and Milam shot Till before sinking him in a local river. Several days later, police retrieved Till’s body from the river. While a trial was conducted, both Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were found not guilty of kidnapping and murdering Emmett Till. Eventually, both men admitted to killing Emmett Till, but were safe against being tried again due to the law of double of jeopardy, which prohibits a person from being tried again for the same charge. Till’s mother held a memorial service with an open casket. While Till was badly bludgeoned and scarred, she wa
nted to show the world what these men did to her son.
Wiley took the tragic story of Emmett Till and turned it into a captivating, emotional play. Wiley played about 37 different characters ranging from Emmett Till’s mother, to Carolyn Bryant, to Emmett Till himself. The play covered the time range of Emmett Till leaving his mother at the train station for Money, Mississippi to the tragic conclusions of the jury trial. A slideshow of pictures of Till, the convenient store, the accused murderers, and Till’s mother accompanied Wiley’s performances to show audiences who the faces of
these very real characters.
Wiley performs his plays with only his name on the cast list. However, he produced a film of Dar He, again starring only himself, in 2012 that won about 60 awards in different film festivals internationally. His creations and productions to educate people on African-American history are phenomenal and inspiring to watch.