A white citizen of a small Southern town murders a black man visiting from the North, then dumps his body in the weeds. The aftermath, and the wounds that racism inflicts on the town’s black and white communities alike, are the substance of poet James Baldwin’s second play.
Meadows Theatre closes its 2011-12 season with Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie, running April 25-29 in the Greer Garson Theatre, Owen Arts Center. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Baldwin’s play, published in 1964, is loosely based on the 1955 killing of 14-year-old Emmitt Till in Mississippi, an event that shocked the nation and galvanized the budding U.S. civil rights movement. Till’s white attackers were acquitted of his murder. (The “Mister Charlie” of the title is a slang term for a white man.) Baldwin dedicated his work to the memory of murdered civil rights activist Medgar Evers and his widow and children, as well as to the memory of the four children who died in the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Its 1964 premiere was praised in The New York Times for its “…fierce energy and passion…like a thunderous battle cry.”