In the first theatre performance of the new semester at Minnesota State University, Mankato, “Wounded Healers” intertwines Black history and culture through captivating storytelling.
“Wounded Healers” focuses on four griots, the African word for storyteller, as they deliver a historical chronology on racialized trauma and toxicity from systemic racism and the pathways to healing bred from creative expression. The play is split into five segments of historical importance, detailing key moments in Black history.
MSU’s Interim Associate VP for Faculty Affairs and Equity Initiatives, Dr. Timothy Berry, wrote and directed the show while also performing as the musician in the show. His inspiration for the production was based on personal experiences along with research on Black history.
“What inspired me was looking back at all the great examples of people doing these expressive things that helped them process. Blues music came out of trauma that [African Americans] didn’t sit on; they used it to come through it,” shared Berry. “It’s not about holding onto the trauma as you might think. It’s about getting to the healing that’s more important.”
The storytellers deliver a poetic powerhouse of pain through biting dialogue. Lines such as “white fear produces black death” detail the trauma that African Americans have been through. Junior Joaquin Warren describes his position of a storyteller as someone who explains the history and trauma, but also the truths.
“We come in every day and we’re living through, sharing and explaining history while teaching these truths about people who have suffered brutal things,” said Warren. “To me, my character is everything [African Americans] have gone through and everything I’ve gone through.”
Having representation in the arts was one of the reasons that sophomore Lyreshia Ghostlon-Green wanted to join the cast.
“When I first saw [the show] in the program last spring, I immediately wanted to do it. I am for my people and I thought ‘what better way to be a part of something that actually means something to me and when will I ever get a chance to do something like this here at MSU ever again?’” said Ghostlon-Green. “It seemed like an opportunity that I could not miss.”
With Black History Month approaching it was important for sophomore Marquise Myles to get involved with the production as the concept of the show gives acknowledgment to the wounded incidences that have happened to African Americans.
“I think Black History is encapsulating the achievements and high points of African Americans in American history,” shared Myles. “To give acknowledgment of the healing process is very important to have accurately represented in a month that’s a little watered down for mass consumption.”
Unlike most shows, after each performance attendees are encouraged to stay for the talkback discussion where the cast will take questions from the audience. Berry hopes that audiences will gain exposure about subjects they might want to learn more about.
“We want the audience to ask us questions about anything that might have come up as they witness the piece,” said Berry. “My only desire for this performance is that [the audience] would be willing to engage in discussion.”
The cast hopes that audiences leave with enlightened minds and changed perspectives along with a better understanding of what Black history.
“I hope everyone can be enlightened and have a new perspective on how our society came to be, how it is, and the history that came into the current America and that we as people have gone through more than they can even imagine,” shared Warren.
“I hope they leave with [previous] biases and stereotypes erased and that they can give us a little more credit for everything we’ve been through,” shared Ghostlon-Green.
“Wounded Healers” runs in the Andreas Theatre starting Jan. 27 through Jan. 29 and again Feb. 2 through Feb. 5 with doors opening at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors and children under 16 and $12 for MSU students.
Header Photo: The cast of “Wounded Healers” hold up signs of protest as they demonstrate how African Americans fought for civil rights. (Emma Johnson/The Reporter)