When it comes to productions on Broadway, just about anything is open from biographical musicals to fairy tales and murder. But there is one production that has not only drawn a great deal of criticism; but has spawned a petition of protest that has garnered over 8,000 signatures.

“Emmett Till: A New American Opera” is the story of the murder of a young teen of colour and spawned the civil rights movement in the 60’s; BUT from the view of a white woman.


The production is set to premiere March 23 at John Jay College in the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre. It is a student from the college – Mya Bishop – that has created the petition. The Change.org petition is asking to have the production cancelled. The issue??? Coss’ involvement in the work and its focus on the fictional character – a white woman. The opera is the course of events of the murder from her view.

The opera was adapted from the play “Emmett, Down in My Heart” by Clare Coss. The fictional woman is a science teacher in Dew, Mississippi who is against the Jim Crow laws, segregation, and the racial inequality but fails to act and stays silent.

In her petition, Bishop wrote, “Clare Coss has creatively centered her white guilt by using this play to make the racially motivated brutal torture and murder of a 14-year-old child about her white self and her white feelings. Telling the story from the perspective of a fictional progressive white woman shows that Clare Coss is more concerned with showing the audience that ‘not all white people are bad’ than she is with the ongoing fight for racial justice.”

Further, an adult – Robert Mack – has been cast to play the role of the 14 year old Till. Bishop states in the petition, it “exacerbates the adultification of Black children which has historically led to their brutalization.”