THIS WEEKEND: Stage play honors lives lost in 1898 Wilmington Massacre

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It is 1898 Commemoration week in New Hanover County, and a new stage play aims to educate Wilmington residents about what happened in their city 124 years ago.

‘What the River Knows’ is a play adapted from a short film by the same name, created by Alicia Inshiradu. That film premiered at Cucalorus Film Festival to critical acclaim.

Lead actor Joseph Hill says the play follows the life of a person who owned businesses and property in 1898 before being killed in the massacre.

“It’s really, really important to grasp that this happened to real people,” Hill said. “These people lived lives and have descendants who are still here in Wilmington to this day.”

Hill says he was inspired to get involved in the project after realizing how many modern-day Wilmingtonians don’t know about the violent history. Although the character he plays is fictional, real historical figures are present in the story as well.

“Really important people, people who own newspapers, people who were writing and telling the stories of a lot of these events that were happening at the time,” Hill said. “People who were run out of the city because of telling these true stories.”

As a prime player in the show, Hill says he hopes people will walk away with a new understanding of past events, and how they can affect the future.

“Understanding it clearly gives us the best possible opportunity to set the stage for our children and for their children,” Hill said. “The way that we make a better future is by understanding the past.”

The play premieres tonight at Thalian Hall at 7:30. There are additional 7:30 shows on Friday and Saturday, and a 2:00 matinee on Sunday.

You can find out how to purchase tickets here.

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