Pan-African Studies premieres MLK play

Cristal Christian (left) and Robert Branch (right) rehearse scenes from the play, The Mountaintop, on Wedneday, Sept. 23, 2015.  

Itzzy Leon

The Kent State Pan-African Studies department will premiere its stage play “The Mountaintop” on Sept. 25 at 8 p.m.

“The Mountaintop,” by Katori Hall, is about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last night before he was assassinated. The entire play takes place in room 306 of the Lorraine Motel, which is where King was assassinated.

“He’s in his hotel room, and then a mysterious sexy young lady (Camae) knocks on the door,” Michael Oatman director of “The Mountaintop,” said.

In the play, Camae shows King the future and events he will miss. Oatman said the play has a “huge twist.”

“It’s an amazing surprise,” said Darryl Lewis, assistant director. “This is an important story because if you were given the opportunity to know that this would be your last day on Earth, the things that you consider to be important would change. We all understand our time is limited, but we think it’s so far away. If you knew tonight was your last night, how would it affect you?”

Oatman decided to have Robert Branch, a white actor, portray King.

“Robert is one of the best actors I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I was not going to make the racial switch unless I had an actor who could pull it off.”

Oatman said he thinks it’s people’s right to react the way they want about Branch portraying King.

“I believe that the American theatre is one of the last safe places we can experiment and explore,” Oatman said.

Cristal Christian will portray Camae.

“(The actors’) work is monumental. They’re on stage for an hour and a half, and they have to go through a lot of emotions,” Lewis said.

Alongside the actors and directors, André Brown is in charge of lights, music and effects.

“He’s a brilliant man,” Oatman said.

Lewis said working with everyone has been taught him a lot.

“Their dedication to the work and the telling to their story have been as important to them as it’s important to me,” Lewis said.

“The Mountaintop” will be shown from Sept. 25 to Sept. 27 and Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. in The African Community Theatre in Oscar Ritchie Hall room 230.

Tickets range from $10 to $15 but are free for full-time Kent State undergraduate students with ID and can be purchased prior to showtime at the African Community Theatre box office.

“I would recommend to people that they run to get tickets,” Lewis said. “This show is that powerful.”

Contact Itzel Leon is the ethnic affairs reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].