On the sleek and spacious stage of the Westerbeck Recital Hall, an actor playing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes a number of flirty advances towards a young woman who is not his wife. Soon the actor playing the young woman begins to talk about the speech that she would make if she were in the shoes of Dr. King as he listens intently, encouraging her to share it with him.
The young woman puts on his suit and shoes and in an oratory voice states that black Americans should build their own counters instead of seeking to desegregate lunch counters in the South.
“I don’t want anything of the white man’s,” the young woman shouts. “Fuck the white man!”
Dr. King laughs then remarks that maybe it could be his next slogan: “Fuck the white man!” he shouts a number of times.
As the laughter of the characters and the audience dies down, however, Dr. King grows pensive. He wonders aloud whether the voice of violence is the only thing that will make white people listen, and tries to theorize about where the deep hatred which he has seen so often from white people toward black people comes from. He thinks that like all humans, they’re scared. But their fear is of losing the world of self-importance that they’ve known for their entire lives.
In this staged reading of Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, starring Larry Powell, Sheria Irving, and Maxwele D’Angelo, the power of looking back at the real Dr. King, 50 years after his death, brought the audience from uproarious laughter to tears. The fictional play seeks to humanize the image of the great Black-American Civil Rights legend, presenting his faults, his humor, the doubts he faced, and his underlying greatness on the night before his assassination.
The performance was arranged by the PCC Jackie Robinson Arts and Humanities Lecture Series and was moderated by Charles Reese, who explained that the Series’ Faculty Representative, Dr. Christopher David West, himself, and everyone else behind the Series was excited to bring this reading to campus due to its message and relevance to the present. He believed that beyond commemorating Dr. King, the play could ignite a fire in people; it could get them to do more, in whatever their capacity, to transform the world in the spirit of the great Civil Rights icon.
“Something new this [performance] can teach Americans, and all people, about Dr. King is that he was human,” said Irving, who played the…