A Production still from "The Face of Emmett Till" | Photo by Kevin Lord

This summer, Burning Coal Theatre hosts two independent company productions and a recently arrived solo artist in rotating rep for its Second Stage series. 

The Face of Emmett Till | Pure Life Theatre | June 14, 15, 17

Mamie Till-Mobley was a woman of uncommon nerve and courage. After her son, Emmett, was lynched outside Money, Mississippi, in August 1955, she insisted upon an open-casket funeral so the world could witness how white supremacists had desecrated his body. Still, she never felt that others had told the whole story of Emmett’s life, death, and legacy. Collaborating with playwright David Barr III, Till-Mobley also detailed her behind-the-scenes struggles with civil rights organizations that were quick to capitalize upon Emmett’s death and quick to move on once the spotlight had turned. Tina Morris-Anderson, Verlene Oates, and John Ivey lead Pure Life Theatre’s production with indelible portrayals of grief and outrage at a historic tragedy. 

OR, | Switchyard Theatre | June 16-17, 23-25

The lively comic thriller behind the odd title (don’t forget the comma) whisks us off to England’s Restoration period, where Aphra Behn, the brilliant poet, autodidact, and spy for King Charles II, stands to make history as England’s first known female playwright—if, that is, she can get out of debtor’s prison. And if she can finish the script so the Duke’s Company has it in the morning to fill the disastrous gap in its season. Ryan and Kelly McDaniel keep the door slamming as interrupting lovers and others; stage veteran Laurel Ullman anchors proceedings as Behn.

Ruby | Susan Gross | June 17-18

Our culture has never known what to do with the grief that women go through after a miscarriage. In her one-person show, stage and screen actor and playwright Susan Gross, a recent transplant from New York, plays a woman navigating treacherous emotional currents after losing a daughter (for whom the play is named). As she tries to find her bearings, her character finds herself ambushed by memories, desires, and encounters with moms and kids in parks and restaurants. Gross’s brave drama asks how a woman lives through that trauma, and what lies beyond.

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