Senior theatre major Jada Yvonne Harris will debut her play “Same Blood” this weekend at Miami’s Hamilton campus. Harris, who is also directing the production, has worked for the past year to develop her script.
“Same Blood” is a dystopian story set in the year 2060 in which white supremacists have taken over the United States and called for the extinction of all minorities. The main character, Adam, believes he is the last Black person in the country and hides his identity. He runs into a friend, Eve, a pregnant black woman who tells him of a resistance preparing to fight against the racist regime.
While the premise of “Same Blood” can seem unimaginable to most, Harris says it is a realistic possibility.
“The story of ‘Same Blood’ is not a guarantee of what is to come, but rather a warning of where our nation might go without the equality and justice that it currently lives without,” said Harris.
The play touches on sensitive issues surrounding race — several actors play members of the Ku Klux Klan and use racist language. This is intentional on Harris’ part, as she hopes to make clear that racism in the States is alive and well.
Kelcey Anyá Broomfield, cast member and first-year graduate student in the theatre and practice program, says the offensive content is necessary for the purposes of the play.
“I think that it is a conversation that needs to be had,” said Broomfield. “I think that it is something that will shake up this campus and probably upset a lot of people, but that’s kind of the point. We want to get people thinking and talking, even if they’re mad.”
Junior theatre major Daniel True-Omaits struggled with his openly racist character.
“For me, personally, it was emotionally and mentally battering,” said True-Omaits. “My character in the show is not only an outspoken racist, he is the head of the Klan, which, as you can imagine, puts me in a really negative headspace.”
True-Omaits said it has been hard for him to separate himself from the character he is portraying on stage, but believes in the importance of the play.
“Letting bigotry and hate govern our lives could make this world a reality, and personally, that scares me to my core,” said True-Omaits. “This show will shake the audience awake and hopefully remind them that bigotry, racism and intolerance exist and are unfortunately still thriving.”
Jalana Phillips, a senior theatre major, says the play is important considering the current climate at Miami.
“I believe Miami’s campus is at a tipping point when it comes to diversity and its treatment of its minority students,” said Phillips. “With the ‘What is Love and Honor’ campaign happening, I think this show is important in seeing how bad things could get it if we don’t start implementing changes now.”
Harris was inspired to write “Same Blood” after the 2016 presidential election.
“As Trump was running for office, I saw in the news that he was getting a lot of attention from people in the KKK and neo-nazis,” said Harris. “They thought that this man was going to ‘Make America Great Again’ in a way that somehow agreed to their views. That frightened me!”
Originally a ten-minute mini-production, Harris began writing after listening to “In My Arms,” a song by Johnnyswim. She began developing it into a full-length play, the first she’s written, last May — a process she said took about three months.
Harris faced challenges finding a location for the performance. The venue Harris wanted was being used for a different student production, and Harris said she feared her play would never be performed before her graduation this May.
Thankfully, through connections she made during a theatre festival in Hamilton, Bekka Eaton, the associate professor and director of theatre engagement at Miami’s Hamilton campus, allowed her to use Phelps Hall.
Harris also had personal challenges along the way, as the play is intensely personal for her.
“This play is a medium that allows me to be my most vulnerable,” said Harris. “I tend to be very personal with my writing. This show is one of my worst fears coming to life, but I knew that I had to share it.”
“Same Blood” will be the first time Harris will see something she wrote come to life on the stage, as well as her first time directing.
“I feel like this is the best way to end my senior year,” said Harris. “I am extremely excited about this, but also nervous.”
After she graduates in May, Harris plans to move to California where she will pursue a career as an actor, writer and producer.
The cast has been working long hours to prepare for the show, rehearsing four evenings per week for four hours at a time. Rehearsals began just four short weeks ago, which Broomfield says is not much time in the world of theatre.
Despite the short amount of time, the cast has worked tirelessly to present a high-caliber performance.
“Everyone’s been working really hard and it’s great to see the show start to shape up,” said Bloomfield.
True-Omaits said he hopes the play will serve as a positive force for anyone who attends.
“I believe in this show,” he said. “I believe in Jada. I believe that the world is what we put into it and I’m putting in love. I just hope others will learn to put a little more love into the world, too.”