OSF actor Tramell Tillman played the central character in James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie: Richard Henry, the young black man who is murdered. Tramell played his role with power and range—from vulnerability to raging anger.
I and my family became acquainted with Tramell after his striking portrayal of Chris in Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, which premiered at the OSF during the 2015 season. Since, he has become a dear and trusted family friend.
I asked Tramell to help me to explore more deeply what I was experiencing in fostering inter-racial collaboration. Tramell listened to my questions attentively, and then shared perspective and advice.
- Show up and be counted in this matter of just and healthy race relations. White allies are needed.
- Explore the question, “What is white privilege and how is it benefiting me?”
- Ask, “What threatens some white people (referring specifically to Black Lives Matter)?”
- Be accountable. In a follow-up communication, Tramell wrote: “The communities both white and black must take accountability for our efforts in the push for equality. Effective communication is contingent on its sender. It is imperative that our white allies continue these conversations with the white community, holding each other accountable and simultaneously asking the hard questions.”
- Draw on theatre as metaphor and medium for change. Tramell shared a compelling and promising possibility: “I firmly believe what we do on stage should be emulated in our communities: As actors we serve as mirrors of society; we mirror the highs and lows of our humanity–inciting a call to action, a change if you will. Whether it be in perspective, beliefs, and/or behaviors, I believe the theatrical call should resonate in our realities.”
Tramell is a gracious and kind person, and a highly gifted and skilled professional–what I like to call “a true gentleman.” And, an entertainer par excellence.