Tyler J. Rollinson, pictured here, reflects on his role in The Whipping Man, which begins performances on April 2 at Geva Theatre Center. Tyler plays John, a former slave still living on the plantation in Richmond, VA.
“No matter the time period: then, now, and in the future, we are defined by the choices we make. And John has made quite a few irresponsible decisions that jeopardize him even having a chance at a future. He was damaged by slavery and the whipping that occurred at the hands of Caleb. John is brilliant. He’s crafty. He’s charming. He’s humorous. He’s witty. If he had made the right choices, he could be Frederick Douglass. He could write a book. But he cannot let go of the pain and suffering he has been branded with at the hands of slavery. Those physical and psychological scars inform every decision he makes. As he relates to young people today: Are we going to be defined by our past transgressions and wrongs committed against us? Or are we going to let those burdens go and move forward?”