Emmett, Down in My Heart

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.

Running Time: One Hour and 35 Minutes

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 theater.”
-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)

Dans les rivieres du Delta

French translation of Emmett, Down in My Heart

Staged Reading in Paris October 2011
Translator: William Pelletier
Producer:  Stephanie Campion, Moving Parts Theatre, Carr’s Pub, 1 rue du Mont Thabor, Paris

Cast in order of appearance:

  • Gigi Lebron, Mamie Till-Mobley
  • Maxime Mathurin, Emmett Till
  • Grace Coston, Roanne Taylor
  • Gabrielle Vigouroux, Carolyn Bryant
  • Olivier Abate, Roy Bryant
  • Etienne Alsamia, Uncle Mose Wright
  • Mata Gabin, Aunt Lizzy Wright
  • Jarod Priam, Maurice Wright
In this Photo: Jarod Priam, Mata Gabin, Etienne Alsamia, Maxime Mathurin, Gigi Ledron
In this Photo: Grace Coston, Olivier Abate, Gabrielle Vigouroux, Maxime Mathurin
In this Photo: Clare Coss, Grace Coston, William Pelletier

Dr. DuBois and Miss Ovington

W.E.B. Du Bois and Mary White Ovington, dynamic leaders across the color line, co-founders of the NAACP, find themselves unexpectedly alone in their New York Citiy office on a Sunday morning, June 1915.  Infuriated over the decision of white board members to curtail his autonomy, Dr. Du Bois is determined to resign.  They spar, flirt, clash, reveal secrets, and compete to save their vital work.  A dangerous river of desire runs through their complex relationship, infused with their shared love of equality, justice and commitment to fight for a better world. Running time: 1hour and 20 minutes

“Tonight’s experience at the New Federal Theatre with Dr. Du Bois and Miss Ovington was wonderful. Coss has achieved an excellent depiction of two compelling characters – dialogue, pacing, tone – and history! The play is all his biographer could wish for as a fitting tribute.” – David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. DuBois, Vols I & II (Pulitzer Prizes) 

Kathleen Chalfant and Peter Jay Fernandez in Dr. DuBois and Miss Ovington, New Federal Theatre in association with Castillo Theatre Photo: Ronald L Glassman

Lillian Wald: At Home on Henry Street

Running Time: One Hour and Twenty Minutes
Requirements: A table and chair
Presented at Colleges and Universities, Conferences and Conventions, Community Centers and Schools

Lillian D. Wald (1867-1940)

Lillian D. Wald, pioneering public health nurse, social reformer and peace activist, created the Henry Street Settlement, Visiting Nurse Service, Neighborhood Playhouse, public playgrounds, school lunches and countless other visionary and urgent “firsts.”

Wald’s vision and work inspired many loving and powerful titles: Lady Light, Dear Lady of Miracles, She Who Must Be Obeyed, and That Damned Nurse Troublemaker. Young women and men were eager to work at the settlement to achieve their “LDW” degrees in social activism.

The play is set at dawn May 8, 1916 in Wald’s office/sitting room at the Henry Street Settlement on New York City’s Lower East Side. She is preparing to lead a peace delegation to the White House where she hopes to convince President Woodrow Wilson to keep the U.S. from entering the war and call for a conference of neutral nations to end the war. Armed with thousands of signed petitions, this courageous mission will enrage financial backers and threaten the future of her pioneering community work.

Wald fortifies herself by reliving the “impossibles” she has achieved, revealing the private person rarely glimpsed behind her public persona. We witness her dynamic struggles with President Wilson, her major benefactor Jacob Schiff, her mentor—nurse educator Lavinia Dock, one of her favorite campers Little Ernie Brofsky, civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois and her beloved intimate friend Mabel Hyde Kittredge.

The play was commissioned and produced by Woodie King, Jr. to celebrate the centennial of the settlement house movement in 1986 at the New Federal Theatre (in the original Neighborhood Playhouse). Lillian Wald: At Home on Henry Street starred Tony-Award winner Patricia Elliott and was directed by Bryna Wortman. A video of the production can be seen at the Theatre on Film and Video Collection, Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts. The script is published in Clare Coss’ LILLIAN WALD: PROGRESSIVE ACTIVIST (The Feminist Press 1989) with her speeches and selected correspondence.

Dramatic Readings (Partial listing) by Clare Coss

  • The Ethical Culture Society, NYC
  • RWJ Executive Nurse Fellows Program, Visiting Nurse Service, NYC
  • Human Rights Day, Boston, Massachusetts CEDAW, WILPF
  • National Association of School Nurses Convention, Cincinnati
  • University of Montana, Missoula, Montana
  • Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, Tucson
  • Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, National Congress, Goddard College
  • Maxwell School of Public Policy, Syracuse University
  • RWJ Executive Nurse Fellows Conference, NYC
  • Westport Historical Society, Westport, Connecticut
  • The Peace History Society, The Nobel Institute, Oslo
  • The Hague Appeal for Peace, The Netherlands
  • N.Y.State Association School Nurses, Rochester
  • Southwestern Missouri University
  • Smithsonian Institution, Dangerous Women Series, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.
  • Public Health Nurse Centennial, Portland, Oregon
  • Department of Nursing, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan
  • Department of Nursing, Messiah College
  • School Nurses Convention, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Registered Nurses Association of Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Public Health Nurses of Texas, Austin
  • National Public Health Nurse Faculty, Chapel Hill
  • University of Arizona Honors Convocation in the Humanities, Tucson
  • National Women Studies Association Conference, Baltimore
  • National Student Nurses Convention, Cincinnati
  • SUNY at Old Westbury, NY
  • Symphony Space, NYC, Benefit for Sigma Theta Tau, International Honor Society of Nurses
  • The Feminist Press, CUNY Graduate Center
  • N.Y. State Convention of Nurses, Buffalo
  • Five College Women’s Studies Project on Feminism and Difference, Smith College
  • The Women’s Funding Coalition, Women and Philanthropy, The Foundation Center, NYC
  • Benefit for Techo, Educational and Cultural Center for Central American Refugees, Tucson Ecumenical Council
  • Association for Women in Social Work, NASW, Atlanta
Patricia Elliott stars as Lillian Wald
Photo: Bert Andrews

Love and Defiance: Ten Scenes from the Twentieth Century 

Thirty-four characters navigate the currents of the twentieth century, from the Cold War of the fifties to the Diallo protests of the nineties, from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings. This lively cascade of private moments shaped by public events flows with humor, grit, and conviction.

Multiple parts can be played by a minimum of three female and three male actors.
Running Time: two hours
For high school and college productions, a Timeline Guide is available.
(Revised, originally Our Place in Time)

The Star Strangled Banner

A lively serio-comedic play with songs gets down on the U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1846.  President James K. Polk, determined to extend the country “from sea to shining sea,” clashes with General Santa Anna in an undeclared war. Called ” “Brechtian-Marx Brothers”

Running Time: Two Hours

One-Act Plays

Dangerous Territory


Mary White Ovington was not a dutiful daughter. She rebelled against the expectations of her family and became the first white woman in 20th century America to dedicate her life to racial justice.

By Clare Coss
Running Time: One Hour
Requirements: A table and chair
Presented at Colleges and Universities, Conferences and Conventions, Community Centers and Schools

DANGEROUS TERRITORY dramatizes Ovington’ s journey beyond the narrow confines of her comfortable New York home. We meet a cast of dynamic characters whose virtues and contradictions propel her along the way: from the careless white boys at the Greenpoint Settlement to the adversarial African-American leaders, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois.

Miss Ovington and Dr. DuBois forged a vigorous and spirited friendship. Their alliance led to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The play takes place on the afternoon of August 20, 1920 in the NAACP national office, New York City.


  • Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork, Bridgehampton, LI, NY  –  in celebration of Women’s History Month 2013
  • Paradigm Shift: New York City’s Feminist Community
    The Tank Theatre, West 48th Street, NYC
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Eastern Long Island Branch
  • Webster University, St. Louis, MO
  • University of Wisconsin, Superior, WI
  • New York State NOW Convention, Albany, NY
Photo By Amy Mitten amittensphoto@gmail.com
In this photo: Jamia Wilson, Women’s Media Center, Post Play Discussion Moderator; Lucius Ware, NAACP Eastern Long Island Branch President; Clare Coss; H Scottie Coads, NAACP Nassau Branch Civic Engagement Manager; Meredith Villano, director Paradigm Shift

Sha Sha

A mother and daughter try to hear each other’s differences on Israel/Palestine without fierce fighting.
Characters: Sara, in her 60’s; Zoe, in her 40’s
Setting: Sara’s living room in Queens, NYC, Autumn 2009
Running Time: Ten Minutes

Sara, Zoe’s Mother, played by Lynn Cohen
Zoe, Sara’s daughter, played by Stephanie Feiger
Stage Directions: Ronald Cohen

Sara: Lost and Found

A One Character Play
Sara, widowed, is persuaded by friends to try out the older person’s singles scene in the Catskills.  Her hilarious and poignant mis-adventures land a husband who lasts but an amorous minute. 
Character: Sara, in her 60’s
Setting: Sara’s kitchen
Running Time: Half Hour

Meeting at the White Horse

One Act Play
Kaye runs a personal ad on the internet.  Felice responds.  Their intense and erotically charged correspondence leads them to make a date.  Their identities unknown to each other, they meet in front of the White Horse.  Felice is stunned to discover she has answered her mother’s ad.
Characters: Kaye, in her 40’s; Felice, in her 20’s.
Setting:  Sidewalk in front of the White Horse Bar, Greenwich Village, NYC
Running Time: Half Hour

En Garde

A One Act Play
A young lesbian couple face breast cancer in the 1970’s. Their wit and strength rally to meet fear and homophobic challenges head on.
Three characters: Kay, a hospital volunteer in her fifties; Jo, in her thirties, on the butch side; Linda, in her thirties, on the femme side
Setting: an uninhibited hospital room
Running Time: Half Hour