Back in 1998, Tyisha Miller, a 19-year-old African-American woman, was unconscious in her car when relatives called Riverside police. She was parked at a gas station with a flat. When officers arrived, Miller was in need of medical attention but had a gun visibly on her lap. The police ultimately forced entry but started shooting when they claimed Miller came to and reached for the weapon. Twelve bullets, including four to the head, struck and killed her. The shooting made national headlines and sparked outrage.
Incorporating hip-hop culture with theater, Dreamscape is play written and directed by Rickerby Hinds that takes the tragedy and reflects on the loss of life. "Ever have one of those dreams where nothing comes out when you try to scream?" it asks of its audience as the production makes a run this weekend at South Coast Repertory.
Hinds first conceptualized the production in 2005, but it's only been in the past three years that he has taken the hands on role of director. Dreamscape isn't just a narrative based on Miller's life, the playwright tells the Weekly. "I used the incident as a point of departure to explore this relationship between the African-American community and the police."
The woman in the play is 19 years-old, but her name is Myeisha Mills. Twelve bullets plunge into her body as she recounts memories of her life. In doing so, Hinds utilizes hip-hop as the preferred form of expression. "I started writing in a language and a style that had a hip-hop essence in it," the UC Riverside professor of theater says. "Beatboxin', dance and spoken words became the three means for telling the story for me."
Tyisha Miller's grandmother and aunt have seen the play. "They were happy with what we had done," Hinds says, though the experience was a difficult one, especially for the grandmother. "The way the narrative of the young lady's life came about was by me as a playwright asking the question: If I was a 19-year-old black girl being shot to death by the police what kind of thoughts would come to my head?"
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"It gave me some freedom to tell stories that would take the audience and allow them to feel the loss of another human being."
Dreamscape stages at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, on the following date and times: Friday, Jan. 17, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 18, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 19, at 3 p.m. Call (714) 708-5555 for ticket information and prices.