Highly Recommended Theater: TRIAL IN THE DELTA: THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL (Collaboraction at The DuSable Museum in Chicago)

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by Tony Frankel on February 10, 2023

in Theater-Chicago


Collaboraction Theatre‘s Emmy-winning teleplay, Trial in the Delta: The Murder of Emmett Till, is back at The DuSable Museum as a live, interactive, fully-produced stage production. It opened last night and runs through Feb. 19, 2023. Trial in the Delta is a live, interactive reenactment of what actually happened in the courtroom in Sumner, Mississippi in 1955, using only the words that were actually said during the trial, adapted by playwrights G. Riley Mills and Willie Round from the recently found court transcript, The State of Mississippi vs. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. Actors playing witnesses for the defense and prosecution, including Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Bradley, his uncle, Mose Wright, and others will be seated among the audience, bringing the courtroom action to vivid life. Key characters based in real life include judge Curtis Swango, defense attorney J.J. Breeland, district attorney Gerald Chatham, and J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, the two men found not guilty of murdering Emmett Till, one of the most monumental injustices of the U.S. legal system in the 20th century. Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony Moseley and Company Member Dana Anderson co-direct.

production photos by Joel Maisonet

Trial in the Delta: The Murder of Emmett Till
Collaboraction Theatre
The DuSable Black History Museum, 740 E. 56th Place in Chicago
run time 2 hours
ends on Sunday, February 19, 2023
for tickets ($30-$55), visit Collaboraction
not in Chicago? the full tele-play remains free to watch on NBC Chicago

The Cast: (top, from left) Richard Alan Baiker as Judge Curtis Swango, Maddy Brown as Carolyn Bryant, Tyler Burke as Roy Bryant, Colin Callahan as Robert Hodges, Kayla Franklin as Mamie Till-Bradley, Darren Jones as Mose Wright, Ron David Lipski as the Clerk, Andy Luther as district attorney Gerald Chatham, Matt Miles as J.W. Milam, Lyle Miller as Chester Miller, John Henry Roberts as John Edward Cothran/Peter Hackus, Matt Rosin as George Smith, Steve Silver as defense attorney J.J. Breland, Jamie Vann as H.C. Strider and Mysun Aja Wade as Willie Reed.

(front) Kayla Franklin (Mamie Till-Bradley), (from left) Tyler Burke (Roy Bryant), John Henry Roberts (John Edward Cothran/Peter Hackus), Jamie Vann (H.C. Strider), Steve Silver (defense attorney J.J. Breland), Mysun Aja Wade (Willie Reed), Darren Jones (Mose Wright), Lyle Miller (Chester Miller), Andy Luther (district attorney Gerald Chatham) and Matt Rosin (George Smith).

John Henry Roberts plays reporter Peter Hackus.

Kayla Franklin, Richard Alan Baiker.

Defense attorney J.J. Breland (Steve Silver, left) points to his clients Roy Bryant (Tyler Burke, foreground) and J.W. Milam (Matt Miles) as district attorney Gerald Chatham (Andy Luther, right) and Mamie Till-Bradley (Kayla Franklin, center) look on.

Emmett Till’s uncle, Mose Wright (Darren Jones, center) is directed by district attorney Gerald Chatham (Andy Luther, right) to point out the men who kidnapped and murdered his nephew, (from left, backs to camera) Roy Bryant (Tyler Burke) and J.W. Milam (Matt Miles), seated with their defense attorney J.J. Breland, (Steve Silver).

Willie Reed (Mysun Aja Wade, left) is questioned by district attorney Gerald Chatham (Andy Luther) as Emmett Till’s murderers Roy Bryant (Tyler Burke, back to camera, left)  and J.W. Milam (Matt Miles) look on.

Mamie-Till Bradley (Kayla Franklin, left) is sworn in by the Clerk (Ron David Lipski)

Kayla Franklin (left) plays Mamie Till-Bradley, Steve Silver (center) is defense attorney J.J. Breland and Richard Alan Baiker (right) plays Judge Curtis Swango.

Mamie Till-Bradley (Kayla Franklin, left) trains her gaze on defense attorney J.J. Breland (Steve Silver, standing) and her son’s murderer J.W. Milam (Matt Miles, seated).

District attorney Gerald Chatham (Andy Luther, center) questions Mamie-Till Bradley (Kayla Franklin, right), just feet away from one of the men who murdered her son.

Kayla Franklin. Richard Alan Baiker

(left) Carolyn Bryant (Maddy Brown) looks out from the witness stand at her husband Roy Bryant (Tyler Burke) and J.W. Milam (Matt Miles) while under questioning by defense attorney J.J. Breland (Steve Silver).

Emmett Till’s uncle, Mose Wright (Darren Jones, right) is questioned by defense attorney J.J. Breland (Steve Silver)

District attorney Gerald Chatham (Andy Luther) shows the ring found on Emmett Till’s body

Coroner Chester Miller (Lyle Miller, left) is questioned by district attorney Gerald Chatham (Andy Luther)

(front) Kayla Franklin (back, from left) Ron David Lipski, Richard Alan Baiker

Kayla Franklin

The full tele-play remains free to watch on NBC Chicago and the NBC5 Chicago app, and is available for streaming on Peacock, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.

Collaboraction is a 25-year-old, ethno-diverse company that uses theater and performance to incite social change on Chicago’s most critical issues. Collaboraction produces live and digital performances, anti-racism workshops, and youth programs that incite change and grow equity in Chicago. Since its founding in 1996, Collaboraction has pushed artistic boundaries working with more than 4,000 artists to bring over 100 productions and events to more than 150,000 unique audience members, and has inspired measurable positive change on social justice in Chicago and beyond.

Collaboraction’s work includes Moonset Sunrise, The Light Youth Ensemble, Crime Scene, Forgotten Future, 1001 and Gender Breakdown. In addition to live performances, community building and video production, the company centers and presents its work in Chicago neighborhoods historically overlooked like Englewood, Austin and Lawndale.

The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is the nation’s first independent Museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and study of the history and culture of African Americans and people of African descent. For more information, please visit dusablemuseum.org and follow @dusablemuseum.


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