Clare Coss

Emmett, Down in My Heart
Castillo Theatre 2015
Interview on WBAI, Radio Pacifica CCR's Law and Disorder
April 27, 2015

Emmett, Down in My Heart
Castillo Theatre 2015

Emmet, Down in My Heart

Playwright's Note
Today in the Delta

More about the production

Dans les rivieres du Delta, the French translation of Emmett, Down in My Heart, had it's first Staged Reading in Paris October 2011. Read more...

In the works:
German Translation, Emmett Down in My Heart Label Noir Theatre, Berlin

"The story of Emmett Till is one of the most dramatic and clearest illustrations of the effect of racism in our society - the kinds of terrible things that racism drives people to do. The play is a wonderful, moving, important evening in the theatre."

Kathleen Chalfant

"This is a project that gives a unique perspective of a very important event in this time in history. A really fine piece of work has been written, and the opportunity to do it again and to hear it again is, for me, something good."

Danny Glover

"Clare Coss's profoundly moving play is vital for our time. The interwoven stories of Emmett Till, his mother Mrs. Till-Mobley, and white school teacher Roanne Taylor create a rich, dramatic work that touches the heart and provokes thought and action.”

Josh Gladstone, Artistic Director, John Drew Theatre, Guild Hall

"A powerful blend of first class theatre and history. You emerge with a deep understanding of the tragic event, and the vast impact it had on our country"

Ezra Swerdlow, Producer (Ghost Town, Waiting to Exhale, Tootsie, Wag the Dog)

"Emmett, Down in My Heart" is awesome, brilliant, powerful, a play about the American conscience. The character of Roanne gives our dramatic literature a new dimension."

Woodie King, Jr., Producer, New Federal Theatre, New York City





Emmet, Down in My Heart

Emmett, Down in My Heart

Running Time: one hour thirty-five minutes  No intermission.

Eight Characters: in order of appearance:

MAMIE TILL, Mother of Emmett Till, a 33 year old African-American woman
EMMETT TILL, nicknamed "BO", a fourteen year old African-American boy
ROANNE TAYLOR, Schoolteacher, a white woman in her 40's
CAROLYN BRYANT, wife of Roy Bryant, a 21 year old white woman
ROY BRYANT, husband of CAROLYN BRYANT, a 34 year old white man
UNCLE MOSE, Reverend Mose Wright, known as "Preacher", a 64 year old African-American man
MAURICE WRIGHT, son of Aunt Lizzy and Uncle Mose, a 16 year old African-American boy
AUNT LIZZY, Elizabeth Wright, Rev. Wright's wife, a 55 year old African American woman

In the play Emmett, Down in My Heart, violence, fear and courage are interwoven with white silence and responsibility. Mamie Till-Mobley's monumental choice to have an open casket for her son begins her transformation from private grief to public activism for justice. Roanne Taylor, haunted by Emmett's screams for mercy, comes face to face with her denial and failure to act as she begins her journey from denial to recognition and involvement.

At this defining moment in our nation, the play illuminates how each character negotiates the struggle for identity and humanity in our embattled world. The audience witnesses their own individual paths to challenge limits and open possibilities.

Who was Emmett Till?

In August 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year old African-American Chicago boy, traveled south to visit cousins in the Mississippi Delta, a rigidly segregated police state.  White supremacists ruled with fear and anger. Accused of wolf-whistling at a young white woman storekeeper, Emmett was abducted, tortured, murdered and thrown in the Tallahatchie River weighted down by a hundred pound cotton gin fan.  The killers were acquitted of any crime.
Emmett's mother insisted on an open casket "so the world could witness the horrors inflicted on my son." This decision cast a floodlight of attention on the case that helped to ignite the civil rights movement.  Three months later in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks said Emmett Till was on her mind when she refused to move to the back of the bus. 

Productions: Emmett, Down in My Heart

    Castillo Theatre 2015 / Director Erica Gould
    Music Director/Sound Designer Bill Toles, Scenic Designer Joseph Spirito, Lighting Designer Xavier Pierce, Costume Designer LaToya Murray-Berry

    Mamie Till - Jasmine Saunise
    Emmett Till - James Ross
    Uncle Mose - Cassagnol Leonidas, Jr
    Aunt Lizzy - Tiffany Raelynn
    Cuz - Lorenzo Jackson
    Roanne Taylor - Zoë Anastassiou
    Carolyn Bryant - Jessica Puentevella
    Roy Bryant - Josh Berresford

Click to View Photo Gallery Lorenzo Jackson and James Ross in Emmett, Down in My Heart


"Directed with grace and ingenuity by Erica Gould - this is Emmett's story. James Ross is the innocent youth whose cheerful responsible life ended in violence. It is a cathectic performance, as is Jasmine Saunise's as his heroic mother." Isa Goldberg,

"Emmett, Down in My Heart" is one of many perspectives on the Emmett Till story that is valid and whose production is timely, strongly reflecting the thoughts and actions of our society as we currently move through the “New Lynching Movement”. Marcus Dargan,

Audience comments:

"I feel changed! I need to be more activist!"

" A powerful play with a uniformly excellent cast under strong direction"

"A very impressive and touching play about a horrendous part of American history."

"It's like I could see myself in that casket...I wont forget this experience for as long as I live."

    Tucson Alliance of Dramatic Artists,Tucson, AZ - 2014
    Director Sheldon Metz

    Emmett, Down in My Heart
    Winner TADA! Play Contest

Carly Elizabeth Preston as Mamie Till
Kendrick Stallings as Emmett Till

Staged Readings:  Emmett, Down in My Heart

    John Drew Theatre, Guild Hall, East Hampton, N.Y.
    Josh Gladstone, Artistic Director
    Starring- Kathleen Chalfant, Danny Glover, Linda Powell,
    Maul Donte Davis, Patt Franklin, Louisa Krause, Jared McNeill, Ryan O’Nan, Gabrielle Lee, Stage Directions
    The Community Gospel Choir introduced the evening.
    Directed by James Lawson
Kathleen Chalfant / Danny Glover

Kathleen Chalfant

Danny Glover

Linda Powell

    Culture Project and Judson Memorial Church, NYC
    Co-Producers: Allan Buchman and Donna Schaper
    Featured Kathleen Chalfant, Danny Glover, Linda Powell
    Directed by Kenny Leon
    Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir introduced the evening.  
    John del Cueto, Choir Director

cast photo
Actors from left to right: Jared McNeill,  Maul Donte Davis, Crystal Dickinson, Linda Powell, Danny Glover, Kathleen Chalfant, Rebecca White, Christian Kohn, Lizan Mitchell Photo thanks to Maul Donte Davis

    Rivendell Theatre, Chicago  
    Producer, Tara Mallen
    Directed by Ilesa Duncan

cast photo
Actors from left to right: Andre Teamer, Sandra Watson, Michael Pogue, Travis Turner, Lily Mojekwu, Laurie Empen, Kate Berry, Eric Slater

    Culture Project, NYC
    Producer, Allan Buchman
    Directed by Sarah Peterson
    Featuring: Mercedes Ruehl, Gena Bardwell, Harry Burney, Orlando Columbus, Lloyd Goodman, Christian Kohn, Alicia Roper

Mercedes Ruehl
Mercedes Ruehl

    First Table reading
    William Burford's Playwrights Lab, Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor, NY

cast photo
First row: Kate Meuth, Clare Coss, Janine Carter
Second row: Lloyd Goodman, Orlando Columbus, Gena Bardwell, Josh Perl, Ann Christian, Harry Burney, William Burford