Emmett, Down in My Heart

By Clare Coss

Emmett, Down in My Heart tells the story of 14-year old African-American boy Emmett Till, who in August 1955  traveled from Chicago to visit cousins in Mississippi, a rigidly segregated police state. White supremacists ruled with fear and violence.  Accused of wolf-whistling at a white woman storekeeper, Emmett Till was abducted, tortured, murdered, thrown in the Tallahatchie River weighted down by a hundred pound cotton gin fan. The killers were acquitted of any crime. His mother insisted on an open casket “so the world could witness the horrors inflicted on my son.” Her courageous decision 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.  

At this defining moment in our nation, the one invented character, teacher Roanne Taylor, represents white people who care but who fail to speak or act in the face of racial injustice.  

Roanne Taylor journeys from denial to the recognition of responsibility.


Eight Characters: In order of appearance

EMMETT TILL, 14 year old African-American boy

MAMIE TILL, Mother of Emmett Till, 33 year old African-American woman

ROANNE TAYLOR, Schoolteacher, white woman in her 40’s

CAROLYN BRYANT, Wife of Roy Bryant, 21 year old white woman

ROY BRYANT, Husband of CAROLYN BRYANT, 34 year old white man

UNCLE MOSE WRIGHT, Reverend Mose Wright, 64 year old African-American man

MAURICE WRIGHT, Son of the Wrights, 16 year old African-American boy

AUNT LIZZY WRIGHT, 55 year old African-American woman


Running Time: one hour thirty-five minutes 

French and German Translations

Film Production: Summer 2021, Afro-German Theatre troupe, Label Noir, Berlin

Emmett, Tief en meinem Herzen, Lara-Sophie Milagro Director

Lara-Sophie Milagro & Dela Dabulamanzi, Artistic Directors, Label Noir

Staged Reading: Moving Parts Theatre, Paris 

Les Rivieres du Delta, translator/director William Pelletier

Stage Productions: 

  • Castillo Theatre NYC 2015 / Director Erica Gould
  • Tucson Alliance of Dramatic Artists, Tucson, AZ -2014, Director Sheldon Metz

            Winner TADA! Play Contest and Production

Staged Readings:

  • John Drew Theatre, Guild Hall, East Hampton, N.Y.  Starring Kathleen Chalfant, Danny Glover, Linda Powell. Director James Lawson.
  • Judson Memorial Church, NYC Co-Producers: Allan Buchman and Donna Schaper. Featured Kathleen Chalfant, Danny Glover, Linda Powell. Director Kenny Leon
  • Culture Project, featured Gina Bardwell and Mercedes Ruehl

“The play represents the clearest illustration 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, NYC