CWU News

'The Mountaintop' Play Kicks Off MLK Tribute at CWU

Jaeana Davis

“Night. April 3, 1968. Room 306. The Lorraine Motel. Memphis, Tennessee.” This sets the opening scene of the award-winning play “The Mountaintop” written by Katori Hall that will be staged this weekend at Central Washington University.

The play, set the night before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., depicts him as tired and overwrought rather than as the unstoppable and confident civil rights figure that has been so often portrayed. MLK is visited by a motel maid named Camae, who speaks candidly with him. The conversation between the two flits from playful banter to a philosophically and politically charged debate.

Free tickets are available at The play is at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Tower Theatre in McConnell Hall. A discussion will follow the Sunday performance.

Two CWU students, Nathaniel “Hiko” Addison, a senior theater performance major, and Jaeana Davis, a junior musical theater major, will play King and Camae, respectively.

“I never would have imagined in my college career that I would be considered to play someone as big as this figure of social justice and civil rights,” Addison said. “However, when reading this play, it kind of separated the idea and image of MLK from the human being MLK and I felt a little bit more grounded.”

Davis agreed.

“This show is so relevant to today's world and is an eye opener for what we thought of MLK and what could have gone on in his head before and during his death. What I was thinking after going through this play and getting this role was this will be one of the biggest and most impactful roles in my life. I feel honored to be able to be a part of this show,” she said.

Matthieu Chapman, assistant professor in the theatre department, will direct the play. Chapman said he thought the performance would give students and faculty a chance to engage more with the university’s stated commitment to diversity.

"I believe that this play can be educational; so often when people discuss MLK, he is positioned on this pedestal as an unattainable ideal,” Chapman said.

“This play humanizes him. He wasn't always a hero. He was 26 years old during the Montgomery bus boycott.  It reminds our students that King was literally just like them, a young person who saw great injustices and decided to speak out against it,” he added.

The play addresses contemporary issues of race, resistance and progress. Addison believes that people will be drawn to this play because of the current issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and other race-related events.

“There’s a metaphor of a baton being passed around and I think it’s so important to realize that Martin Luther King, even though he wanted to bear the problems of the world, could only hold onto this baton for so long before he would have to let it go,” he said. “We’re all connected to this issue; one person’s problem is the world’s problem and we have to continue just passing along the baton to solve this issue.”

Other MLK events on campus include elementary student visits, a march and MLK tribute program this month. Additional panels, performances and guest speakers will extend into spring quarter.

Julia Moreno wrote this for the CWU Publicity Center and was published in the Daily Record.

See the full CWU Martin Luther King Celebration Week event list and article at the Daily Record.

--January 3, 2017