Second Martin Luther King Play MOMENTS WITH DR. KING Broadway Bound?
Ambassador Andrew Young today joined Samuel Nappi and Ruth and Stephen Hendel to announce that Moments with Dr. King is preparing for preliminary stagings prior to a Broadway production, and that Congressman John Lewis has joined the team as an advisor. The announcement was initially scheduled to take place in August, coinciding with the anniversary of Dr. King's speech at 1963's March on Washington and the dedication of the National Memorial to Martin Luther King in the capitol city, but it was postponed due to Hurricane Irene. The announcement was made today in tribute to Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth -- a leading civil rights pioneer, co-founder of Dr. King's primary civil rights organization, and a central figure in the groundbreaking events with Dr. King in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 -- who passed away yesterday.The new epic play provides factually-based slices of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from December 1955 until April 1968. It depicts widely-known historic events as well as more private behind-the-scenes moments. Currently calling for a cast of more than twenty, the play includes close-up examinations of Dr. King's interactions and relationships with Coretta Scott King, other family members, associates, officials and adversaries. By securing permission from the King estate, the production makes use of portions of speeches, writings, recordings and other property of the King family. Moments with Dr. King will be performed in two stand-alone parts that can be seen in the course of a matinee and an evening performance, or on two separate evenings. Young said he was drawn to Moments with Dr. King because "it achieves something remarkable, something I haven't seen before: it captures the essence of Martin, the person he really was. There are important revelations in this close look at how he viewed the world, how he dealt with people at all levels, how he handled his doubts and fears and where his strength and courage came from." Young noted that "despite tireless research by the team, only a fraction of Martin's conversations were fully preserved, and when I read the creative but well-grounded reconstructions of dialogue, it really brought me back to my time with him. I've not chosen to produce theater about Martin until now, but this play surprised me, and I'm certain it will electrify audiences." Eric Falkenstein, a long-time student of the civil rights movement as well as theater production and creative executive, leads the writing effort and, together with the creative team, is selecting audio, video and photographic material that will be part of the multi-media elements of the staging. For several years, Falkenstein and Nappi have been consulting an expanding group of civil rights veterans, scholars and dramaturges. "Our development process has been a lengthy one," said Nappi. "I'm inspired by Eric's passion. He has the rare combination of talent, heart and diligence for this project. He also grasps the importance of both the subject and of entertainment." Nappi continued, "Ambassador Young inspires not only us but countless people around the world. To partner with him is an immense gift because of his years of first-hand, inside knowledge; his sharp memory for fascinating backstories; and his close ties to many surviving civil rights participants. The Ambassador brings his infectious sense of social justice to his understanding of audiences. All these things help shape material that people may discover for the first time."Falkenstein, who was a guest of Lewis on his Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage, said: "The meteoric ascent and sudden loss of Dr. King is one of the most profound epics of our time. Many who look behind the most well-known events in the lives of Dr. and Mrs. King are fascinated, so the play selects moments that are both part of America's collective memory as well as ones that are largely unknown. Together, they portray legendary talent and eloquence, strengths and weaknesses, challenges and setbacks, triumphs and tragedies, yet they also illuminate the people behind the legends. A panoramic look at the lives of Dr. and Mrs. King from 1955-1968 reveals extraordinary narrative threads and character evolution. These and other distinctive elements of their lives help inform the use of artistic license to sustain dramatic tension. This is of great significance for a biographical play based on essential fact, an accurate timeline and occasional verbatim language. For all these reasons, and because the story of Dr. King during this period is so rich and so unique, it can be set within an engaging dramatic framework and yet remain historically faithful." Falkenstein added, "We're indebted to countless scholars, archivists and journalists who've preserved and analyzed so much material as well as a growing number of King family members, friends and movement veterans for their personal insights, stories and other treasures. And we still feel we have many more to reach out to."Nappi, who produces film and theater through his World Harmony Productions shingle and is a board member of The King Center in Atlanta, said this about casting in 2012: "We're preparing a long and broad search in casting this large company. In order to achieve what we're setting out to do, we need principles with just the right fit, especially for Dr. King and Coretta [Scott King]." Ruth and Stephen Hendel co-created and presented the 2009 Broadway musical FELA, currently on worldwide tour, about the late Nigerian icon, Fela Kuti.Young, the former United Nations Ambassador was Executive Director of SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), led by King, and has also served as Congressman from Georgia, Mayor of Atlanta and Chairman of the Andrew Young Foundation. He produces a documentary series "Andrew Young Presents" about human and animal challenges and triumphs, and for his work has received seven Emmy Awards and a Lifetime Emmy. In 1981, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. King, the only individual honored with a federal holiday, was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.