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Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

“Blood at the Root” Marks the Third Production of Fall 2023

Brittney Harris directing movement during a “Blood at the Root” rehearsal. Photographed by Kaela Wilson.

ODURep is closing its fall season with a production of “Blood at the Root” directed by Brittney S. Harris.


“Blood at the Root” is a play written by Dominique Morrisseau that explores themes of racial identity and injustice. The story follows Raylynn, the first Black student to run for student body president at her high school, and the violence and hate that erupts in her community that ensues. It is a fictionalized retelling based on the real-life Jena Six case from 2006.


“Blood at the Root” is more than a simple play— it is also considered a choreopoem. Coined by writer Ntozake Shange, a choreopoem combines elements of theatre with dance and poetry.


“‘Blood at Root’ could be defined as a choreopoem because the stylized ensemble-based performance through music, poetry, and prose weaves the interconnected stories of justice, implicit/explicit bias, and generational influence struggle into a complex representation of community,” said director Brittney S. Harris.


Conversely, the production will also make use of shadow work to tell the story through action and movement. A few examples can be found here on the ODURep Instagram.


“Shadow work is really cool and you can convey a lot without anyone having to say anything,” said Angelina Paquin, a cast member who plays Toria.


The set includes a large tree that the cast will climb during the performance. The tree is an integral symbol of “Blood at the Root,” as lead actor Kendra Blount explains.


“There’s a certain tree that’s been at [Raylynn’s] school for tens and tens of years. And she noticed that only a certain demographic, white students, sit at that tree and it’s kind of frowned upon that black students sit there […] The change that she wants to see happen within her school is more people sitting in that tree.” 


Like many of the plays ODURep produces, “Blood at the Root” focuses on certain social issues of the world while making connections with the audience.


“I believe this play is essential for various reasons, the most important being the impact we all experience in our lives when faced with hate and violence against one another. This racial and gender-based hate may be layered into our soil generationally, but it’s time to look at our history more truthfully,” said Harris.


“[The story] is so relevant […] especially now that we’re still talking about different social issues,” said Blount.


“Blood at the Root” will contain elements of audience participation throughout the show.


“[Audience participation] helps the audience connect with us and be more engaged,” said Paquin.


“Theatre is rooted in personal, intentional interaction, and by creating a space for views and ideals to be challenged, we could consider working together, healing together, and planting something new,” said Harris.


When asked what she wanted audiences to take away from the story, Blount said, “I want it to sort of shock them, a little bit.


“I hope that the audience is open-minded. I think it will provoke them to have more open conversations about race and any injustice going on in the world,” she added.


“Blood at the Root” will run on Nov. 9-11 and Nov. 15-18 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. at the Goode Theatre. Tickets can be purchased here and start at $10 for ODU students.

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About the Contributor
Ash F.J. Thomas
Ash F.J. Thomas, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Ash F.J. Thomas is an English major working as the Arts & Entertainment Editor. Ash likes to review the many artistic events and exhibitions at ODU and the general Norfolk area. Outside of the Mace & Crown, Ash is passionate about creative writing, theater, and gaming.

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