Acting the part: Wiley in a scene from Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till. Courtesy Stephen Barefoot
Acting the part: Wiley in a scene from Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till. Courtesy Stephen Barefoot

Multiple Personas

Lehman Brady visiting professor Wiley to put on a show
August 1, 2010

Mike Wiley has played many roles in his acting career—all actors do. It's just that Wiley plays them all at once.

Since the spring , he has had a new role as the Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in documentary studies and American studies at Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

While he is on campus, Wiley—who often plays multiple roles in one-man shows based on African-American history—will be working with students to research and produce a theatrical piece about the freedom riders, the group of activists who sought to integrate interstate bus lines in the early 1960s. This spring, he and his students combed archival materials and conducted oral-history interviews with surviving participants in order to incorporate their voices into the production.

Wiley has used his performances to educate and entertain audiences of all ages nationwide. He has written, directed, and acted in plays about baseball player Jackie Robinson; fugitive slave Henry "Box" Brown; the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott; and the Emmett Till case, among others.

In the fall, he will work with Tim Tyson Ph.D. '94, senior research scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies, on a dramatic version of Tyson's book Blood Done Sign My Name, to be staged with a student cast in the spring of 2011. Wiley previously performed his own production of the book's story at Duke.