Hippodrome offers view of MLK at The Mountaintop

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is trying to decide whether to cut his moustache off.

It is less than 24 hours before he will die, and he is in his room at Lorraine Motel in Memphis asking the maid whether he should shave it off.

The lighthearted moment offers a a glimpse of the emotional rollercoaster ride for two characters starring in The Mountaintop.

The curtain will rise Friday to showcase the play written by Katori Hall. It will run through Nov. 7 at the Hippodrome in downtown Gainesville.

Director Ryan George said the play is not sad.

“It’s full of joy and hope,” he said, explaining that the writer peels back the layers of King to reveal the humanity of the hero.

“It is a two-person show set in a hotel room,” George said but there are “surprises in store, things are not what they seem.”

The story unfolds by revealing that it is April 3rd, 1968, and a stranger comes to help King prepare for his destiny and legacy, which comes to fruition the next day when he will be shot on the hotel balcony.

Deshawn White describes the maid character she plays named Camae.

“She is a cussin’, fussin’, smokin’, no-nonsense kind of a woman,” White said. “But also very grounded, beautiful, sensual, loving and caring.”

What she likes about the play is the ability to present King in a way many are not privy to. Her role helps King look at the world in a different way as he comes to accept his fate.

“There are two perspectives happening on the stage,” White said about how the very different characters play off of each other. “You can be in a space with someone who is not like you and still learn so much from them.”

Chaz Rose bears a striking resemblance to MLK even in rehearsal. He insists that the play is not sad, despite what people might think about the setting.

“It’s not about his assassination,” Rose said. “It’s about the man…a look behind the cape of heroes.”

George is a graduate of the University of Florida’s theater performance program and got his acting debut at the Hippodrome but is now based in Brooklyn, New York.

He said he is excited that theater is coming back and The Mountaintop is just the type of play that is needed.

“This play really explores humanity,” he said. “We all need to be moved in a beautiful way, and this play will do that.”

Along with the live production there will be two panel discussions. On Oct. 28 after the 7 p.m. show the discussion is “Historical Context of MLK’s time and the real man.” And another discussion “Then and Now: The Civil Rights Movement” after the 7 p.m. show on Nov. 3.

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