We’ve finally arrived. Everyone has eagerly been expecting us. It kind of feels like we are celebrities of sort that people in the audience can’t wait to see. Really, we are just causing a delay because our bus was late. We find our seats while the nervous staff rushes us in. The performance begins.
The play is opened with a scene about a courageous black woman, who refuses to yield to the oppressing, discriminating bus policy - black people have to sit at the back of the bus, the seats in front are for the ‘white folks’ only. Even when threatened by a police officer, the woman stands her ground and insists that, having paid the same bus fair as everyone else, she has the right to sit wherever she wishes. She is taken to jail. By her act, however, she unintentionally starts a boycott, which is later supported by the main character of the play - Martin Luther King.
The actors, having only one white man among them, used black or white masks, symbolizing the race of the character they were playing at the moment. That of course would leave too much to our imagination, since a mask covering a half of a person’s face can’t change one’s race. And so the actors perfected the impression by their performance. A small white mask did not make a black man seem like a racist white sheriff. His performance, however, did.
Young King is pressed to join the boycott by his friend. He refuses to interfere, reasoning that it could hurt his career. Eventually, he is persuaded and takes action. He gives a speech about nonviolence and the boycott succeeds under his leadership. Thus his movement against racial segregation in the USA begins.
Meanwhile, a famous anchorman, Jack Nader is deeply affected by Martin Luther King’s speech. He begins to doubt the honesty of his work, that is, reporting only what has been scripted and approved. He meets Martin Luther King and the impression he gets from him, especially King’s honesty, gives Jack no other choice but to admire King. ‘It is hard to be the man they want me to be’ King says to him when he is surprised that King smokes (not in public, however). Later on, Jack Nader receives a visit from the FBI. He is asked to spy on Martin Luther King, in order to prove the suspicion that King is a communist. Under the threat of losing his job, Nader agrees to report to the FBI any proof about King’s connection to the communists, but refuses to act directly against him. While King struggles in his cause, Nader has a struggle of his own: should he choose the safe path of an obedient man, or support King, which he believes to be right?
The scene comes at last. Martin Luther King is standing behind a desk and a mob is cheering at his feet. He makes his legendary ‘I have a dream...’ speech. When he finishes it, the audience claps. It almost feels as if we were clapping for Martin Luther King in person. The actor’s performance makes us understand the greatness, almost divinity ascribed to Martin Luther King.
We are immediately reminded that he was just a man in the following part of the play. Jack Nader is by the FBI once again. They have given up their claims about King being a communist and focus now on the incidents from his personal life. King is accused of adultery. Nader refuses to believe it, but when he visits King in an inconvenient time, he finds it to be true.
The play escalates. Nader deals with his disappointment in King by drowning his grief in alcohol, and King is desperate with guilt... Suddenly, King is assassinated. The play ends with a heart-breaking song, the lights turn on, the audience claps.
In a very entertaining way, we were taken back in time and became acquainted with the story of a legendary man, who fought against racial segregation in the USA, but he fought mainly for the equality of all people. The still, sensitive, topic of racial equality was handled very well and we leave with a positive impression of the life of Martin Luther King. We also leave wondering, whether there really is, racial equality among people nowadays.
by Martin Krč
Year 2, Issue 1