/ Modified feb 28, 2014 8:53 a.m.

Play Depicts Tragedy That Helped Ignite Civil Rights Movement

Violent 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till is now a one-act play currently onstage at the Tucson Symphony Center.

(VIDEO: AZPM)

A tragedy that fueled the civil rights movement is now a one-act play currently onstage at the Tucson Symphony Center, and the director says it's being presented in a time when people are once again fighting for equal rights.

"Emmett, Down in My Heart," is a production based on the true story of Emmett Till, who was abducted, tortured and murdered in 1955 Mississippi. The killers, who were white supremacists, were acquitted of all charges.

For the funeral, Till's mother insisted on an open casket, "so the world could witness the horror inflicted on my son." Her decision was what helped ignite the civiil rights movement, according to experts, and a few months later, Rosa Parks was reported saying Till was on her mind when she refused to move to the back of the bus.

"This came way before the issue of Trayvon Martin," said Sheldon Metz, director of "Emmett, Down in My Heart," and founder of the Tucson Alliance of Dramatic Artists. "And, the murder of Emmett has been on the news on and off, whenever something occurs that would bring it to life. When Trayvon was killed, everybody started comparing him to Emmett."

He was an important player in the civil rights movement and didn't even know it, unfortunately, Metz added.

He argued civil rights are being threatened once again, and that the play couldn't have come at a better time because "we are going right back to the '50s."

"This is happening again...we are fighting this way in the U.S. all over again...the anti-gay initiatives, anti-semitism and racism starting again in various forms," he said. "We want people to be aware and recognize the symptoms....so they can eliminate the disease."

In-studio performance of "Emmett, Down in My Heart."

(VIDEO: AZPM)

Production is presented by the Tucson Alliance of Dramatic Artists. It will be on stage through March 9, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m, and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. at the Tucson Symphony Center, 2175 N. 6th Ave. For more information call 722-9553.

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