The Mountaintop is a stirring two-character drama in which 32-year-old African-American actress and playwright Katori Hall imagines what might have happened on Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s next-to-last day on Earth — on April 3, 1968 — and asks “What if?” The play, which is set in Room 306 of the Lorraine Hotel in the playwright’s hometown of Memphis, TN, is being jointly produced by PlayMakers Repertory Company and Triad Stage. It begins previews tonight in the Paul Green Theatre in the the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Dramatic Art and officially opens on Saturday, Sept. 21st.
Raelle Myrick-Hodges will direct this joint production, which stars Cedric Mays as Dr. King and Lakisha May Camae, the mysterious Lorraine Hotel maid who brings Dr. King a cup of coffee that triggers a oul-searching conversation. The play will run from Sept. 18th to Oct. 6th in the Paul Green Theatre — the home stage of UNC’s professional-theater-in-residence — and from Oct. 20th to Nov. 10th on Triad Theater’s home stage, the Pyrle Theater in Greensboro.
“I was blessed to have an opportunity of hearing the very early version of The Mountaintop in San Francisco,” recalls Raelle Myrick-Hodges. “One of the readings of Ms. Hall’s work was done there through the Playwrights Foundation….”
She adds, “What I think makes the play extraordinary is that it is (although fictional) a portrayal of an American leader outside the scope of his political celebrity. It is at its core a play about discovering one’s ‘place’ in the world — how we as individuals can affect change.
“I wanted to direct this play,” says Raelle Myrick-Hodges, “because I’m interested in that relationship of a person truly coming to terms with what their life can ‘mean’ in a world changing exponentially. The relationship of mortal versus icon was of most interest — how we ‘see’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: from leader to martyr to icon.”
According to Amazon.com’s book description notes “… The Mountaintop is set … on the night before Martin Luther King is assassinated and on the day he delivered a speech in which he foretold his own fate, ‘I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that tonight, we as a people will get to the Promised Land.'”
“Playwright Katori Hall takes this historic date with destiny and weaves a powerful surrealistic fantasy about a conversation between King and a mysterious hotel maid who brings him a cup of coffee and prompts him to confront his life, his past, his legacy and the plight and future of African-Americans. Hall’s insight, light touch and lively mood depicts King as a real man with very human foibles who was nonetheless capable of inspiring millions to hope and move toward a momentous societal shift for equality and justice.”
A 2003 graduate of Columbia University in New York City, Katori Hall is an actress, dramatist, and journalist who graduated from Harvard University’s American Repertory Theatre Institute for Advanced Theatre Training in 2005 and earned an MFA in Acting in 2009 from the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at the Juilliard School in New York City.
The Mountaintop premiered in 2009 at Theatre503 in London, later transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End, and won the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play. The play made its Broadway debut, directed by Kenny Leon and co-starring Samuel L. Jackson (making his own Broadway debut) and Angela Bassett, on Oct. 13, 2011 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where it played for 117 performances before closing on Jan. 22, 2012.
In addition to director Raelle Myrick-Hodges, the PlayMakers Repertory Company/Triad Stage creative team for The Mountaintop includes PlayMakers producing artistic director Joseph Haj, assistant director Jeffrey Meanza, production manager Michael Rolleri, scenic and costume designer Junghyun Georgia Lee, lighting designer Xavier Pierce, sound designer Robert Dagit, video designer Nicholas Hussong, vocal coach John Patrick, movement coordinator Craig Turner, dramaturg Adam Versenyi, and stage manager Sarah Smiley.
“[The Mountaintop] is a play that perhaps should be done with just two chairs,” claims director Raelle Myrick-Hodges, “because of the intimacy of the journey Dr. King takes. However, that is not why we leave our house to go to the theater. We go to theater for an experience that allows us an opportunity to reflect on our own lives. Therefore, the most challenging part [directing The Mountaintop] is literally the staging — including extensive video and sound. These elements act as huge characters in the theatricality.”
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 17th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel preview by Sarah Ang: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2013/09/mountaintop-0918; Aug. 27th Chapel Hill, NC Chapel Hill News preview: http://www.chapelhillnews.com/2013/08/27/3119428/theatrical-companies-to-collaborate.html; July 4th Greensboro, NC News & Record preview by Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane: http://www.news-record.com/go_triad/article_d15ab3c8-e42f-11e2-9ee5-0019bb30f31a.html; and June 25th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh preview by the BWW News Desk: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/PlayMakers-Triad-Stage-to-Present-THE-MOUNTAINTOP-Begin-918-20130625.
PlayMakers Repertory Company and Triad Stage present THE MOUNTAINTOP at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 18-20 Previews, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21 Opening Night with Post-Show Reception, 2 p.m. Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24-27, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1-4, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5, and 2 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus; at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20 and 22-24, 8 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29-31, 8 p.m. Nov. 1 and 2, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5-7, 8 p.m. Nov. 8 and 9, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 in Triad Stage’s Pyrle Theater, 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro, North Carolina 27401.
Chapel Hill: $15-$45 ($10 UNC students and $12 other college students), except $55 on Opening Night (Sept. 21st) and $15-per-ticket (general admission) Tuesday Community Night performances. There are also discounts for UNC faculty and staff and U.S. military personnel.
Chapel Hill: 919-962-PLAY, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/single. Group Rates (15+ tickets): 919-843-2311, email@example.com, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.
Greensboro: 866-579-TIXX or 336-272-0160 or http://triadstage.org/series/125/the-mountaintop#calendar. Group Rates (15+ tickets): 336-274-0067, ext. 221, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapel Hill: http://www.playmakersrep.org/mountaintop.
NEWS RELEASE: Chapel Hill: http://www.playmakersrep.org/media/story.aspx?id=dabba87b-e8c3-424c-900e-1e55e2c66962.
PlayMakers Repertory Company: http://www.playmakersrep.org/.
Triad Stage: http://triadstage.org/.
BLOGS: PlayMakers Page to Stage: http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
Triad Stage’s Lucky 13th Season: http://triadstage.tumblr.com/.
Chapel Hill: http://www.playmakersrep.org/aboutus/paulgreen (directions/parking: http://www.playmakersrep.org/visitorinfo).
Greensboro: http://triadstage.org/ (directions: http://triadstage.org/visit and parking: http://triadstage.org/visit#parking.
NOTE 1 All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.
NOTE 2 There will be a gala reception after the $55-per-person 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21st, opening-night performance.
NOTE 3 There will be an All-Access Performance at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24th.
NOTE 4 There will be FREE post-show discussions with members of the creative team after the Sept. 25th and 29th shows.
NOTE 5 There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29th (for more information, click http://playmakersrep.org/outreach/allaccess/opencaption).
NOTE 6 From 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5th, the UNC Program in the Humanities will present a $75 program entitled “The History and Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement,” followed by a reception and the 7:30 p.m. performance of The Mountaintop (theater ticket is $28 extra). To see details and to register, click http://humanities.unc.edu/programs/adventures-in-ideas/civil-rights-movement/.
NOTE 7 The the Lucy Daniels Foundation and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society will sponsor FREE post-show “Mindplay” discussions after the Oct. 5th and 6th performances.
The Mountaintop (2009 West End and 2011 Broadway play): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mountaintop (Wikipedia) and http://www.ibdb.com/production.php?id=490429 (Internet Broadway Database).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Katori Hall (playwright): http://katorihall.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katori_Hall (Wikipedia).
Raelle Myrick-Hodges (director): http://raellemyrickhodges.com/ (official website) and http://www.playmakersrep.org/ (PlayMakers Rep bio).
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-68): http://www.thekingcenter.org/ (The King Center) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters.
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