02-19-2017  1:34 pm      •     
McMenamins

artsDuring the current commemoration of Martin Luther King and his 'I Have a Dream' speech, critics are drawing attention to the difference between the idealized King we revere today and King, the man. A new play at Portland Center Stage, "The Mountaintop," focuses squarely on the latter. First produced in 2010 by Katori Hall -- and already considered a classic -- this two-person show features Rodney Hicks as King and Natalie Paul as a maid at the Lorraine Motel who brings him a cup of coffee on the night before his assassination.
The Skanner News spoke with Hicks about the play, the man, and society today.

The Skanner News: Mr. Hicks the last time we spoke with you, it was about your performance as Curly in the PCS production of Oklahoma! It was an all-Black show, and the point of it was really that staging was truer to the history of Oklahoma than most people have ever thought about. Now we're talking about a play called, "The Mountaintop." Can you speak to the history of this show? What is it about and why is it important?
Rodney Hicks: Katori Hall, a native of Memphis who is an amazing playwright and also actress herself, she wrote this play for her mother, really in a sense. Her mother was 15 years old at the time of Martin Luther King's last speech and she couldn't go because her mother said, "They're going to bomb the church." (Hall says today that her mother always regretted the decision not to attend King's sermon) 
So the play was a legacy for her mother in a sense -- but also, bigger than that, King himself. In short she wanted to create a piece that wasn't about the 'god,' or the mythical being who we've made King to be (and rightfully so). She wanted to examine who would he be like as a human, and how can we see him as a man who puts his pants on the same way, who was this really ordinary man who did extraordinary things -- and that is really the crux of the play.
It's not the 'I Have a Dream' King; it's a more radical King, it's "warts and all," basically, and not this Christ-like figure which we have made him to be.
We have to remember that night in history, that night before his assassination, and everything leading up to it — he had dissention in his own movement, and not just the FBI and everything like that. Also he was suffering from depression, because of all the mounting pressures, being away from his family so much. So we are seeing King there.


TSN: And this is King at the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis, in 1968, the night before his assassination. Have you ever been to the Lorraine Motel?
RH: Yes I have!

TSN: Talk about that a little. Why is that moment in time so important? Because I have a feeling that a lot of people agree that, actually, the fate of the whole planet was changed. I think it is fair to say that.
RH: Absolutely.
You know there was so much leading up to his night before – he was receiving death threats already, and they were putting on the radio, that night before, where he was staying. Also on that night before, he and some friends were all planning to go to a soul food dinner. Just before the bullet was fired, as he stood with friends on the motel balcony, the last thing King said was about that planned dinner: "Make sure they play Precious Lord Take My Hand." The last words he said in public.
Assassination aside, when I found that out, it changed a lot of things for me. And his legacy – I mean he could have died in his sleep. His autopsy showed he had the heart of a 60 year old. And at that time, being 60-years-old is like being 90 in our times. You know?
If he'd died in his sleep, he would have been revered. But the fact that he was assassinated changed our whole course of history and the legacy of what he could have continued to do. He would have only been 80-something years old now.

TSN: You are an incredibly thoughtful actor. You're very deep in your portrayals – and the last time we saw you was in a piece of musical theater. How has this current part changed you?
RH: First, at the outset – I gained 20 pounds to play the role. Right? Back in April. And that was just the physical.
But it changed me in terms of really knowing who this man was. Not just, oh it's Martin Luther King Day, or smiling when I see Martin Luther King Boulevard. It changed me when I really delved deep into who this man was, and it made me see -- he could do all of these things and achieve all of that at 39? And then I looked at myself and said, I'm 39 right now.
And then you flash forward to all the things that are happening today, with the Voting Rights Act overturned, and the things that are happening in North Carolina, and Trayvon Martin – all of these things – you can't escape him, I can't escape him now.
I don't think I have ever been in a rehearsal process for a show or a Shakespeare play or musical where I actually broke down. It wasn't until this show, and I will leave you with this in terms of how it's changed me: It's opened me up even more to the possibilities, to the possibilities of the human condition.
There's a section in the show where Camae, the maid who is played brilliantly by Natalie Paul, she asks him: You're not afraid? And he says, basically: I've known fear my whole life. I've seen it in pulpits even in my own church. Fear doesn't bother me because I know if I'm still awake and still afraid, I'm still alive. I'm paraphrasing but you get the gist. He was afraid of many things—everything else but fear itself. That didn't bother him. But there were a lot of things that he was afraid of.
We were in the middle of that one speech and I just lost it. It was strange because it wasn't Rodney losing it -- it was a spiritual thing happening. And I just sunk to the floor. The same thing happened to our actress several days later—she had this moment as well.
I think this show, and under Rose Riordan's direction, I think people are going to be touched in a whole other way that they cannot fathom. I really do.
You will stop thinking that you're watching a play. And that's her goal.
 
"The Mountaintop" opens for previews Saturday, Aug. 31, and runs through Oct. 27. For ticket information go to www.pcs.org/mountaintop, or call the box office at 503-445-3700.

 

 

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all