Marin Theatre Company Produces West Coast Premiere of FETCH CLAY, MAKE MAN, Now thru 9/7
Marin Theatre Company, in a bi-coastal co-production with Maryland's Round House Theatre, will open its 48th Season with the West Coast premiere of Fetch Clay, Make Man, an historical drama that draws its inspiration from a peculiar event from the Civil Rights Era: a press conference at which heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, né Cassius Clay, introduced his "secret strategy man" - the former Hollywood comedic actor Stepin Fetchit, né Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry. Written by San Francisco native and hip-hop theater pioneer Will Power and directed by Derrick Sanders (MTC's Fences, 2014), Fetch Clay, Make Man examines black identity in the US through the unlikely friendship between two African-American icons who became inseparable from their public personas - Ali, "The People's Champion," was viewed as a racial hero for embracing black pride (and white antagonism); Fetchit, "The Laziest Man in the World," as a racial traitor for his "chitlin' circuit" vaudeville and minstrel show character (that was so popular he became the first black actor to receive a featured screen credit). MTC's production features the return of Bay Area actors Eddie Ray Jackson (MTC's Fences, 2014) and Robert Sicular (MTC's The Seafarer, 2008), as well as the debuts of Roscoe Orman (Gordon on TV's Sesame Street; Broadway's Fences, 1987) and D.C.-based actors Jefferson Russell and Katherine Renee Turner. The production will run for a limited engagement of 29 performances from today, August 14 through September 7. Opening night is Tuesday, August 19. Based in Mill Valley, MTC is a 48-year old professional nonprofit theater that is a destination for smart contemporary American plays, uncommonly high quality productions and adventurous live theater experiences.
"We are delighted to welcome back to Mill Valley Derrick Sanders, the incredible director who helmed our fantastic production of Fences last season," said artistic director Jasson Minadakis. "He has brought together a wonderful cast of actors to tell San Francisco-native Will Power's story of Ali and Step and the powerful battle that raged in the mid-1960s, both inside the ring and outside in the world. We are thrilled to have a dynamic group of artists from across the country collaborating on this new play, which will start here in the Bay Area and then travel to Bethesda, Maryland, where it will continue its run at Round House Theatre."
Taking place in the run-up to the controversial 1965 rematch between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston, which famously ended after Liston went down less than two minutes into the first round after a "phantom punch" that few saw delivered by Ali, Fetch Clay, Make Man leaves the well-documented public event as background to the imagined drama taking place in Ali's dressing room. From the shadow boxing of personalities between Ali and Stepin Fetchit, whom Ali has brought in to teach him heavyweight champion Jack Johnson's "anchor punch," to the struggle of Ali and his wife with their new life in the Nation of Islam, "plenty of verbal punches are thrown" in this "eye-popping [and] intriguing" (The New York Times) new play that is also a "fascinating [and] bracing look at the politics of identity" (Backstage.com).
Fetch Clay, Make Man premiered in 2010 at the McCarter Theatre Center in New Jersey and received its second production at New York Theatre Workshop in August 2013. Born in Harlem and raised in San Francisco's Fillmore district, playwright Will Power "has been hailed by critics as 'the best verse playwright in America' and is known for bridging the gap between contemporary hip-hop and performance theater" (Dallas Magazine). His 1999 solo performance work The Gathering: a hip hop theater journey to the meeting places of Black men is considered to be one of the first hip-hop theater pieces ever created. These distinctions, among others, earned Power a Trailblazer Award from the National Black Theater Network. Locally, he co-founded the Whammy (SF Weekly) and Bay Area Music Award (BAM magazine) winning rap group Midnight Voices in 1990, and wrote Flow and The Seven under commission by San Francisco's Thick Description. Seven went on to win three San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards. Power's work has not been seen locally since he performed excerpts of Flow at the Bay Area Hip-Hop Theater Festival preview in 2003.
Fetch Clay, Make Man stars Eddie Ray Jackson as Ali and Roscoe Orman as Fetchit. A recent graduate of Columbia University, Jackson has recently appeared at MTC as Cory in August Wilson's Fences and at Magic Theatre in the world premiere of Pen/man/ship. A 50-year veteran of American TV, film and stage, Orman is best known as Gordon on PBS's Sesame Street, as well as playing Gabriel in the original 1987 Broadway production of August Wilson's Fences. He has performed as Stepin Fetchit numerous times in the one-man live show The Confessions of Stepin Fetchit, written for him by screenwriter Matt Robinson (who played Gordon on Sesame Street from 1969 to 1972, prior to Orman). Supporting Jackson and Orman are Bay Area actor Robert Sicular and D.C. area actors Jefferson A. Russell and Katherine Renee Turner. Following the run of Fetch Clay, Make Man in Mill Valley, the production will move to Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, where it will run from October 10 to November 2, 2014.
Fetch Clay, Make Man marks the return of director Derrick Sanders, who made his MTC and Bay Area debut in April directing MTC's Fences. He is known as one of the country's preeminent interpreters of the work of August Wilson and worked directly with the playwright as assistant director on his world premieres of Radio Golf and Gem of the Ocean. His short film Perfect Day was screened in May at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.
Recommended for ages 13 and up. MTC is proud to now offer $10 tickets for local teens to attend live professional theater.
Fetch Clay, Make Man | West Coast premiere
Marin Theatre Company
In a co-production with Round House Theatre in Maryland
By Will Power | Directed by Derrick Sanders (Fences)
Featuring Eddie Ray Jackson (Fences), Roscoe Orman (debut, Gordon on TV's Sesame Street), Jefferson Russell (debut), Robert Sicular (The Seafarer, Magic Forest Farm) and Katherine Renee Turner (debut)
August 14 - September 7, 2014
Opening Night: Tuesday, August 19
Previews: Thursday, August 14 - Sunday, August 17
Tue, Thu, Fri & Sat 8:00 pm
Wed 7:30 pm
Sun 7:00 pm
Matinees: Every Sun 2:00 pm | Sat 6/14 & 6/28, 2:00 pm | Thu 6/19, 1:00 pm
Check marintheatre.org or call the box office at (415) 388-5208 for exact performance dates and times.
Marin Theatre Company | 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941
One snuck in the back door, so the other could walk in the front.
Why would the shining son of the Nation of Islam seek help from one of the most vilified figures of black American culture? In this knockout new play, San Francisco native Will Power investigates an unlikely friendship of the Civil Rights Era - young heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali and disgraced actor Stepin Fetchit.
"Throws plenty of verbal punches" - The New York Times
$35-$58, details below (discounts available for Seniors, Teens and those Under 30)
Previews: $35 all
Opening Night: $53 side | $58 center
Tues (except Opening Night), Wed, Thu: $37 | $42
Fri: $45 | $50
Sat Evenings: $50 | $55
Sun Evenings & all Matinees: $42 | $47
RUSH tickets: $20, available one hour prior to show, based on availability
Senior discounts: $4 off, all performances
Under 30: $20, all performances
Teen tickets: $10 tickets, all performances
Military personnel, their families & US veterans: $5 off, all performances, must show ID
For group sales, contact Julie Knight, (415) 388-5200, ext. 3302
A Q&A discussion, hosted by a member of MTC's artistic staff (often with one or more members of the cast), follows every performance, except on Saturdays and Opening and Closing Nights.