Student Repertory Theater, or SRT, has just put on two student directed shows this past weekend; Blood at the Root, written by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Britney Mallebranche, and Sensitive Guys, written by MJ Kaufman directed by Kyle Imbeau. Both of these shows tackle important issues relevant to current society and left the audience asking themselves, “am I part of the problem?”
Blood at the Root was breathtaking. Beginning with an eerie rendition of “Glory Glory Hallelujah,” the play tells an all too real story of inequality in the deep south. Student director Destiny Mallebranche masterfully handled this script and transformed it into a beautiful, enlightening experience. Through the use of unique movements and sounds, music, and a haunting set piece, she successfully brought this piece to life.
Blood at the Root explores racism and homophobia in a high school located in Louisiana. After black students start sitting in an area informally designated for a white clique, six nooses are tied to the tree in front of the school. The show tackles the idea of complacency, with many students arguing that it was just a prank or kids being dumb instead of calling it what it was; a hate crime. All the while, some of the students who are fighting for justice for black students are discovered to have biases against the LGBTQ+ community, showing that everyone has work to do, even those on the front lines.
Each characters is morally gray, making it difficult to decide who to root for, yet the cast took these uncomfortable roles and played them well. One student that stood out among the rest was AJ Jean Phillipe. This was his first show at BSU, and he absolutely blew it out of the water. From a haunting rap sequence, to amazing movements, Jean Phillipe was unforgettable.
The show closes out with a message of hope and horror with the idea of “tomorrow.” The last haunting image of the black students being tied up by the white students, holding nooses over their heads, almost as if they were halos. This horrifying image solidifies the message that the systematic oppression of black people will continue to hurt them and benefit their white counterparts until rules start to be broken. I would give this show a 9/10.
Student director Kyle Imbeau could not have picked a better show to put on right now. Sensitive Guys unfortunately hits dangerously close to home, and asked many questions regarding sexual assault and survivors that many school administrations refuse to answer. Imbeau did a remarkable job at presenting this issue in a tasteful but powerful way, almost as if the show was itself a form of protest.
With a cast made up entirely of women and non-binary actors, Sensitive Guys portrayed the title characters so thoroughly that suspension of disbelief was not a hard thing to accomplish. A specific detail that showed this so perfectly was the set changes. Both groups in the show take place in the same room, with the men’s peer education group moving the furniture all over and never putting it back, leaving the survivors support group to clean it up for them. Though this is such a small detail, it made it all the more believable, and it details like these that made the show so real to the audience.
This play is incredibly important for the ideas that it brings to the audience’s attention, which expose rape culture, specifically it’s effects on a college campus. This show was likely uncomfortable for many men in the audience, as Kaufman shows that even if you are a “sensitive guy,” you are benefiting from the oppression of women. There is hope though, if you are willing to put in the work. Sadly, many of the male characters in the show are not willing, thinking that letting a woman speak without interrupting them and not pressuring them into sex is enough, when that is the bare minimum.
A student that stood out to me specifically was Deeyanna Duffie. Duffie was able to embody masculine characteristics amazingly. If there was an award for “sits like a man the best,” she would win it, hands down. She played a powerful role that represented the intersectionality of feminism, and how black women are often left out, and did so phenomenally.
The show closes with a powerful, but profoundly unsettling moment where the phrase “Rape Happens Here” is chanted. Though the story is set at a fictional university, this is an unfortunately relatable sentiment, and I couldn’t think of a better stage that this play could grace. I would give this show an 8/10.
Both of these plays were incredible and had lots to say. The most impactful shows are the ones that keep you thinking even after they’re over, and I firmly believe that both Blood at the Root and Sensitive Guys, respectfully, have done just that. Bravo!