CSU’s first Pandemic Theatre production hits stage Oct. 2
By Abigail Jarvis
If there is a show that encapsulates the old theatre saying “the show must go on,” it’s Cleveland State University’s production of Blood at the Root. Originally scheduled for spring of last year, the cast and crew of “Blood at the Root” have endured unprecedented challenges in development and staging.
The show is being directed by Colleen Jackson and features the work of designers Russ Borski, Cameron Michalak, and Terry Pieritz. The majority of the cast members from last spring were able to maintain their roles; some even being alumni who have returned to CSU’s campus specifically for the show.
Blood at the Root by Dominique Morisseau (Ain’t Too Proud, The Detroit Projects, Paradise Blue), is based on the true events of The Jena Six- six Black teenagers who were initially charged with attempted murder after weeks of rising racial tensions in Jena, Louisiana, instigated by nooses hung on their high school property. The show is unique in that it is a piece of devised theatre: theatre that was created collaboratively between an ensemble and playwright.
Jackson and her cast have persevered in Zoom rehearsals to adapt the production to fit CSU’s Pandemic Factory Stage. Senior Sophia Costanzo is excited to perform as her character Toria again and work around the presented challenges.
“I am genuinely so thrilled that we still have the opportunity to do this because it is such an important show,” Costanzo said.
Although this was Costanzo’s first time working with Jackson, she felt a connection with the director immediately.
“She’s so different than any other director I’ve ever worked with, and I mean that in the best way possible,” she said. “She makes me feel comfortable, safe, happy, open… I don’t feel intimidated or uncomfortable like I have with other directors in the past.”
Costanzo explained that Jackson thoroughly reviewed the central ideas of the show with the cast in the first rehearsals back in the spring. Blood at the Root is centered on marginalized students taking a stand for what they believe in and deals with themes such as racism, homophobia, dramatization in the media, and microaggressions.
“Black families, as Colleen told us, have to have that conversation [about racism in America] with their children at a very young age. She hit us all with so many realizations like that,” Costanzo said.
In addition to the initial conversations about the complex thematic elements of the show, Jackson took into consideration the cast’s input on safety. Costanzo said that Jackson recognized a lot of these conversations would be difficult, but necessary. Despite the challenges Costanzo and the cast have faced, she has faith that the production will be something to remember.
“It scares me, but I definitely believe that if college kids can do this, if we can find a creative outlet to perform something, so can Broadway or community theatres,” she said. “It’s just a matter of putting your mind to it.”
Blood at the Root opens Friday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. There are limited virtual tickets for the live Zoom production, but the department hopes to create additional ways of viewing the show. Costanzo recommends keeping an eye on the department’s social media pages, @official_csu_theatre on Instagram and @csudrama on Twitter.