|Written by||Katori Hall|
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.|
|Subject||Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.|
The Mountaintop is a play by American playwright Katori Hall. It is a fictional depiction of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s last night on earth set entirely in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel on the eve of his assassination in 1968.
Background in history
In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was in Memphis, Tennessee to speak on the behalf on the Memphis sanitation workers regarding their mistreatment and denial of their civil rights. While in Memphis, King stayed at the Lorraine Motel where he was assassinated on April 4th. A week before his assassination, King led a demonstration through downtown Memphis, where one reporter was killed and many injuries and much property damage followed. The poor work conditions and pay that the sanitation workers suffered angered the black community and encouraged them to speak out on other problems concerning civil rights. King was nothing but supportive, even saying that he did not want to leave Memphis until his work was done. Before he could finalize his ideas and plans for Memphis and everywhere else suffering from injustice, he was assassinated.
The play begins with King in his room of the Lorraine Motel waiting for room service. Camae, the mysterious and beautiful maid comes and strikes King's attention immediately. At first there is a bit of flirtation between the two. As the night goes on they tell each other their wishes that they hope to see in the future for civil rights. When the light conversation about what is happening to African Americans goes deeper, Camae reveals that she is there to claim Dr. King and that she is an angel. King is then told when and how he will die and is forced to confront his fears and his own death. With a bit of a mental breakdown, King admits he has known this would come and that Camae and his own acceptance has made him unafraid of death. The play ends with Camae taking King to 'the mountaintop' and images of King's assassination seep into the hotel walls. The names of significant incidents, people and symbols in America including, 'Vietnam Burning' and 'Black raised fists' are brought to light as Camae floats away by herself. King has a final monologue about Heaven being a place on Earth and metaphorically passes on the Baton to other influential individuals.
The play initially failed to find a venue in the US but premiered in London at the 65-seat Theatre503. After critical acclaim and a sell-out run the play transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in the West End. The production was directed by James Dacre, produced by Marla Rubin and featured British actors David Harewood and Lorraine Burroughs. Harewood was nominated for Best Actor in the Evening Standard and Whatsonstage Awards and Burroughs for Best Actress in the Olivier Awards. The production won the Olivier Best New Play Award  and was nominated for Whatsonstage Awards and Most Promising Playwright in the Evening Standard Awards.
The Independent wrote that the production at Theatre 503 was "an imaginative portrayal" and shows "a relationship that is breathtaking, hilarious and heart-stopping in its exchanges and in its speedy ability to reveal character and pull the audience into the ring." Theater critic Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph wrote of the production at Trafalgar Studios "It is a beautiful and startling piece, beginning naturalistically before shifting gear into something magical, spiritual and touching."
The play premiered on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on September 22, 2011, with an official opening on October 13. Samuel L. Jackson made his Broadway debut in the role of Dr. King. Angela Bassett was his co-star.
The play made its regional premiere at Milwaukee Repertory Theater on September 26, 2012, directed by May Adrales.
The play premiered in the Boston area at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge on January 10 and ran through February 3, 2013. The play was presented by the Underground Railway Theater.
The Mountaintop premiered in Houston, Texas at Alley Theatre on January 11, 2013, and ran through February 3. It is a co-production between Alley Theatre and Arena Stage and was directed by Robert O'Hara.
The Mountaintop was presented by Yellow Bunny Productions at The Market Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa, from June 12 thru July 21, 2013. It starred Sello Sebotsane as Dr. King and Mwenya Kabwe as Camae. The director was Warone Seane, and the production designer Wilhelm Disbergen.
The play was staged by the Playmakers Repertory Company from Chapel Hill, North Carolina in Fall 2013, with performances elsewhere in the state.
The play had a regional premiere at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, California, from March 6 to April 7, 2013. It was directed by Anthony J. Haney.
The Mountaintop premiered in New Orleans, Louisiana, at Anthony Bean Community Theater from November 1 through 24 starring Anthony Bean and Monica Davis and was directed by Harold X. Evans.
Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, NY produced the play from March 31 - April 26, 2015 starring Royce Johnson and Joniece Abbott-Pratt and directed by Skip Greer.
The Mountaintop premiered in Burlington, Vermont, at Vermont Stage Company from April 22 to May 10, 2015. It starred Jolie Garrett and Myxolydia Tyler and was directed by Cristina Alicea.
The play premiered in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. King's birthplace, at the Aurora Theatre from January 12th through February 12th, 2017. Under the direction of Eric J. Little, the production starred Neal A. Ghant and Cynthia D. Barker.
The Mountaintop premiered in Abilene, Texas, at Abilene Christian University from March 2 to 4 in 2017. It starred Myles Colbert and Alisha Taylor and was directed by Laura Harris.
Pasifika Theatre movement FCC brought the internationally acclaimed play to Auckland, New Zealand with an all Pasifika cast and director. The work has never been performed in New Zealand or by Pasifika actors in the starring roles. Starring David Fane and Nicole Whippy. Directed by Fasitua Amosa. Premiered at the Basement Theatre on 31 October 2017.
- "I've Been to the Mountaintop", Dr. King's April 3, 1968 speech
- African-American Civil Rights Movement in popular culture
- National Civil Rights Museum
- "From a play without a venue to a first for the Olivier Awards". The Independent. March 22, 2010. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
- Jury, Louise.The Standard Theatre Awards 2009: Longlist revealed" Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine. Evening Standard, 2 November 2009
- "Olivier Winners 2010" Archived 2012-09-07 at Archive.is olivierawards.com, accessed April 15, 2011
- Christie, Nicola."'The Mountaintop', Theatre 503, London" The Independent, 16 June 2009
- Spencer, Charles.The Mountaintop, at Trafalgar Studios - review" Telegraph, 31 July 2009
- Gans, Andrew.Samuel L. Jackson Will Climb Broadway's Mountaintop Without Halle Barry" playbill.com, April 14, 2011