The End of the Rope: Discussing Racism through the Lens of the Stage

By Fiona English & Cory Henry

Two weeks ago, the play The End of the Rope premiered behind the Barbara B. Mann Performance Hall. The play, written by Michael Scanlan, was set in 1924 Fort Myers and discussed segregation, lynchings, police brutality, and racism. The play was performed by FSW drama students and portrayed the brutal realities many African Americans faced in the 1920s and today. Following the premiere performance of the play, we interviewed Michael Scanlan, writer of the play. 

The End of the Rope was inspired by “everything that is going on in the world right now… I think (the) kids, all of us, wanted to say something obvious on how we felt about it…I think it just needs to be said.” He continued, “The difficulty is for people who aren’t of color to get inside of people who are of color and know what they’re feeling, and I think that’s what the kids attempted to do.” When approaching a subject matter and story like this, Professor Brown, a theatre professor, felt that the story “ was a frightening thing to engage in for it wasn’t my story to tell… I wanted a collective mindset on the making of this that it would not be just (a) telling of a story which is not mine to tell…”

The End of the Rope focused on the lynching of two young black boys in 1924. The names of those involved with the lynching were never uncovered, although there were dozens of witnesses. Scanlan says, “With time… everyone has to justify their actions, but in reality, it’s just a microcosm of a much bigger issue. People are the other. Some white people look at black people as the other; they’re not like them, so they can just abuse them. With the George Floyd story, people have started thinking about it again.” 

The topic of racism has been a critical issue in the current state of the US right now. More than ever, civil rights have been protested in the streets of cities across the country in hopes of reform due to the murder of George Floyd. The racism, segregation, lynching’s, and bigoted mindset brutally portrayed in this production provided insight into the world of “the other,” a phrase repeated in the play to show how POCs are seen. 
A key motivation for the portrayal, writing, and acting of the play was to “invoke empathy,” as Scanlan says. Cast member Jorge Cabal notes the importance of empathy, stating, “things are not what they seem. We have a hard time finding out the true difficulties of life because we only look through our perspective. We need to look through the point of view of somebody else for a change and just see how ugly the world can be-and how pretty it could be if we all took the time to just empathize with each other.”

Fiona English & Cory Henry

Staff Writers – Community

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