'The Mountaintop' comes to Actors' Warehouse

Play a fictional account between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a hotel maid

Amanda Edwards, left, stars as Camae, a maid at the Lorraine Motel, and George Whitehead portrays the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “The Mountaintop.” (Special to the Guardian)

Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 2:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 2:23 p.m.

"The Mountaintop," an award-winning play that fictionalizes the final hours of the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through an imagined conversation between King and a fictional maid the night before his assassination, will make its debut in Gainesville.



* What: “The Mountaintop,” a play about the Rev. Dr. King's final hours.

* When: 8 p.m. Jan. 24-25, Jan. 30-31, Feb. 1 and Feb. 6-8 and 3 p.m. Jan. 26, Feb. 2 and Feb. 9.

* Where: The Actors' Warehouse, 608 N. Main St.

* Tickets: $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors 65 and older.

* Information: Call 352-222-3699.

The play is being held in conjunction with the King Celebration 2014 and sponsored by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida Inc. The play contains some cigarette smoking and strong adult language and is not recommended for children under 15 years of age.

"The Mountaintop" will be presented at 8 p.m. Jan. 24-25, Jan. 30-31, Feb. 1 and Feb. 6-8 and 3 p.m. Jan. 26, Feb. 2 and Feb. 9 at The Actors' Warehouse at 608 N. Main St. Tickets will be $15 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors ages 65 and older. They will be available 30 minutes before show time at the box office and also online at www.actorswarehouse.org.

"The Mountaintop" will be directed by Steven H. Butler, artistic director of the Spirit of Soul Repertory, the adult theater company housed at The Actors' Warehouse. The play has been written by Katori Hall, a playwright and performer from Memphis who received the 2010 Olivier Award for best new play for "The Mountaintop," which ran on Broadway from Oct. 2011-Jan. 2012, and starred actors Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson.

Butler said "The Mountaintop" is a one-act play that takes place on the evening of April 3, 1968, in Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel. Gainesville actress Amanda Edwards plays Camae, the hotel maid, and George Whitehead, also a local actor, portrays King.

Butler points out that Camae is not a real person and the interaction between Camae and King is imagined by Hall.

Butler said the play explores how King may have felt after delivering his famous, "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, with Camae acting as a sounding board.

"Camae comes into King's life and he connects with her," Butler said. "Sometimes, you can open up to a complete stranger easier than to friends and family."

Butler said he hopes those who see the play will reflect on the great work King did during his lifetime, the great work done by those who carried the baton, and to also reflect on the fact that there is still much work to be done.

"There was great work being done during King's lifetime, and just like society has evolved, so has the civil rights movement," Butler said. "But there is still much work to be done."

Butler moved from Miami to Gainesville five years ago. He is employed at the University of Florida Department of Research and serves as a volunteer mentor with the University Minority Mentor Program. His theater credentials include directing "The Amen Corner," "Steel Magnolias" and the upcoming production of "Night Mother," all at The Actors' Warehouse.

He also served as assistant director of "Intimate Apparel" at the Gainesville Community Playhouse and performed in "Rent," "Anything Goes" and "Exonerated," at the Community Playhouse, and "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Once on This Island" and "Black Nativity" at the Warehouse.

Rhonda Wilson, founder and artistic director of The Actors' Warehouse, said "Mountaintop" centers around what the playwright imagines could have happened on the night before King was assassinated.

"'The Mountaintop' is moving and well-written," Wilson said. "It's thought-provoking and will encourage conversation, whether you agree or not. And that's what theater should do."

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