The cast of the Penn State School of Theatre’s production of Blood at the Root is returning from the most recent stop on its international tour—the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia—with several honors, including the prestigious Graham F. Smith Peace Foundation Award and The Advertiser’s (South Australia daily paper) Best of Fringe Award for Best Theatre.
Blood at the Root, commissioned by the School of Theatre in 2012, initially toured South Africa as a workshop production in 2013 and has since been performed to critical and audience acclaim in the United States and United Kingdom, on a repeat tour to South Africa, and most recently in Australia. Inspired by the “Jena Six”—a group of young black men in Jena, La., who were charged with attempted murder after assaulting a white student at their high school in 2006—the play was written by award-winning playwright Dominique Morrisseau for the School of Theatre’s M.F.A. Acting class of 2015.
In its announcement, the Graham F. Smith Peace Foundation noted that the selection committee unanimously found the play “an outstanding work that promotes human rights. The play’s message resonates around the world, highlighting the importance of accepting people regardless of race in order to achieve a better world.”
The Advertiser called Blood at the Root “brilliant” and “breathtaking” in its first-week five-star review.
Other honors for the play in Australia include “Best Theatre in Week One” and nomination for the Adelaide Fringe Festival Best Theatre Award. In addition, the play won the Hip Hop Theater Creator Award presented by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and the Holden Street Theatres Edinburgh Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as well as being shortlisted for the Amnesty International Award at Edinburgh.
In addition to performing the show, the cast has engaged with hundreds of students around the world, hosting workshops on the play’s themes of social prejudice, systemic injustice and the promotion of human rights.
Cast members include School of Theatre M.F.A. alumni Stori Ayers, Brandon Carter, Allison Scarlet Jaye, Tyler Reilly and Kenzie Ross, and undergraduate Christian Thompson. The director is Steve Broadnax, head of the M.F.A. Acting program at Penn State.
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