MLK takes center stage

As previews for “The Mountaintop,” a play inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., are taking place at the Bernard B. Jacob Theatre in NYC’s Broadway theater district, ASU is readying for its annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2012.

The ASU MLK, Jr. committee has put out the call for nominations for an MLK Servant-Leadership Award to be presented to an ASU student, with a $1,000 award, at ASU’s MLK breakfast on Jan 13, 2012. Nominations are due Mon, Oct. 3.

“The Mountaintop,” by playwright Katori Hall, had its world premiere in London, and earned the 2010 Olivier Award for best new play. Its official Broadway opening takes place Thurs, Oct 13. “The Mountaintop,” a title that references one of King’s most powerful speeches, is directed by Kenny Leon.

Leon’s directing credits include “Fences,” a show well-loved by Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, known to Valley Broadway fans as executive director for ASU Gammage. Jennings-Roggensack is Arizona’s sole Tony Award voter and head of ASU’s MLK Jr. committee.

“The Mountaintop” features original music by jazz instrumentalist and composer Branford Marsalis. It stars Samuel L. Jackson (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) and Angela Bassett (Camae) — both of whom serve on the “Dream Team” for the Martin Luther King, Jr. national memorial being dedicated in Washington, D.C. on Sun, Oct 16.

Tickets for The Mountaintop, which opens Oct 13, are now available

The play is “a gripping imagining of events” the night before King’s assassination in 1968. It depicts an exhausted King retiring to his motel room one stormy night after delivering one of his most memorable speeches, only to receive an unexpected visit from a mysterious stranger with suprising news that forces King to “confront his destiny and his legacy to his people.”

Hall shared in a Q & A article published online by The Juilliard School that she “wanted to depict not only Dr. King’s triumphs but also his struggles.” She hopes people who see “The Mountaintop” leave feeling that they, and everyone around them, can “be a King, too.”

It sounds a lot like the spirit of ASU’s MLK Servant-Leadership Award. “The importance of the MLK award,” says Jennings-Roggensack, “is to remind us that every single day throughout the year, we can hold true to Dr. King’s legacy and continue to make the communities, the country and the world we live in a better place.”

She references a letter King wrote from a Birmingham jail in April of 1963, something that makes compelling reading today and reminds us all of King’s call to servant leadership — and says the MLK committee is looking for ASU students who make contributions beyond the school community to the larger community we all share.

Past MLK Servant-Leadership Award recipients have included a student who set up diabetes clinics in Guadalupe, a student dedicated to helping women and children escape domestic violence, a student committed to the environment and social justice who worked to clean up local communities, and others.

Jennings-Roggensack, whose work frequently takes her to NYC, says she’s excited about attending opening night for “The Mountaintop.” Her admiration for Katori is evident, as is her delight with the fact that three African American women playwrights currently have works being performed on Broadway. “It’s a long time coming,” she reflects.

We’ve yet to realize the full measure of King’s dream within American society, but recognizing students and others who are moving his mission forward is a step in the right direction. Keep walking, and pause often to invite others to join you.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the ASU MLK Servant-Leadership Award, here to learn more about “The Mountaintop” on Broadway, here to learn more about the national MLK, Jr. memorial and here to read The Juilliard School’s Q & A with playwright Katori Hall.

Coming up: Christie mysteries from New Jersey to Gilbert, What’s a Zoot Suit?, Scottish writer tackles suicide tales, Best new offerings on Broadway

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