What If? Play examines fictional King-X meeting
by Richard Antone
Feb 16, 2011 | 19378 views | 0 0 comments | 1103 1103 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Image courtesy of York College Performing Arts Center.
Image courtesy of York College Performing Arts Center.
You don’t have to leave Queens for great theater. Shades of Truth Theater has been touring for eight years with Jeff Stetson’s play “The Meeting,” and will return to York College on February 19. The play is about a fictional 1965 summit between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X in Harlem’s Hotel Theresa. Not only did King support civil rights for blacks, he also advocated for the poor and unions. He also opposed the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons, yet his media image is often reduced to the “I Have A Dream” speech.

Meanwhile, Malcolm X stressed self-reliance and self-defense and renounced racial separatism after his pilgrimage to Mecca, yet his legacy is often reduced to the phrase “by any means necessary.” The play counters these images. “The key for me is to try to capture his manner, to capture some nuance, to embody his passion, to bring his words to life,” said Michael Green, who plays King.

“Sometimes I try to bring that radical King, the King that will get in your face and really confront you, nonviolently, of course. King’s words, his message, don’t really let you escape.”

“He had words for almost everything,” Green continued. “You pick a subject or an issue and somewhere King has addressed it. If people wonder, ‘What would King say if he were here today?’ I’d say, shucks, he’s already said it! It’s in his words, it’s in his books, it’s in his letters. It’s there.” Lawrence Winslow, who plays Malcolm X, aims to embody “who he really was and what he stood for, which was black self-empowerment, rights for African-American people, and subsequently after his trip to Mecca, human rights across the board.”

“It educates people,” he said. “Hopefully, it helps them think about it and they’ll go back and look at some of the things that Malcolm and Martin said.”

As for his research, Winslow says he read The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

“Then I went to The Schomburg Center for Social Research,” he explained. “The great thing about Malcolm was his ability to gather information and digest it, then reassess his viewpoint, given that information. He never stood in the same footprints for very long with new information that he had, particularly after his trip to Mecca. I think that’s one of his greatest attributes.” Besides theaters, the play has also been performed in libraries, high schools, and prisons. Director Eric Coleman offers, “Where we most address this notion of correcting myths is in our post-play talks,” said director Eric Coleman. “We have no documented meeting other than a photo op on the steps of the Capitol in 1964. The one thing (Stetson) achieved is that he showed the two men were very much on the same side and not the polar opposites that people would like you to believe.”

“The Meeting” will be performed on Saturday, February 19, at 7 p.m. at the York College Performing Arts Center, 94-45 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, Jamaica. Tickets are $20 and $10. For more information, call 718-262-2840 or visit www.york.cuny.edu
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