Actor Mike Wiley will perform his solo rendition of “Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till” in the Culp Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The play features the true history of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American teenager from Chicago, who traveled to the Mississippi Delta in 1955.
After whistling at a white woman, the play portrays a series of events that led to Emmett’s murder.
“Within a fictional piece, I had to go off of descriptions of Emmett from people who knew him: his mother, his cousins, his other family members,” Wiley said. “So I used those descriptions and my own personalization from my own life to build a character, who I think would be close to who Emmett was at that age.”
Wiley began performing solo plays while living in New York City.
“I was always the actor that played multiple roles in performances,” Wiley said.
He then decided to create and perform his own plays based on events in African-American history.
Wiley began his research for “Dar He” in 2005, which lasted about six months until he began creating his characters.
“It was my most ambitious solo play at that point, with 36 characters,” Wiley said. “It was going to be something, if I was able to pull it off.”
From the beginning, Wiley knew it would be a challenge, particularly in scenes where he’s dancing with himself or he’s in a car with four other characters.
“I knew it was going to be an undertaking but if I was able to pull it off, it was going to be magical,” Wiley said. “And it has been magical ever since.”
While performing “Dar He,” Wiley was able to perform it in Emmett’s hometown of Chicago.
“That was a pretty amazing experience because there were relatives of Emmett there and that participated not only in the funeral, but being there when his body was brought back to Chicago,” he said.
Wiley said he would love for audiences to understand that Emmett’s story is tragic and that it’s a cautionary tale that should’ve ended all cautionary tales.
“We somehow have found ourselves in the midst of more cautionary tales whether it’s for police brutality or citizens taking the law into their own hand,” Wiley said.
At the end of a performance, Wiley said he would like audiences to walk away with questions to answer within themselves about how to end this brutality, racism or bigotry in the world.
“I think what I would like to see is it continue to gather momentum,” Wiley said. “Having people learn from it in a sense that perhaps, one day, it is the go to play for people to understand the life of Emmett Till and the lives of the men who killed him.”
Wiley’s performances allow him to entertain and educate audiences.
“There is a real void here for African-American history in schools, especially when it comes to play performance,” Wiley said. “I decided that’s what my niche was going to be. I was going to focus on untold stories in African-American history.”