Critically-acclaimed play well received by Union community – 02/08/2007
Author: Jasmine Maldonado
Featured Brother: Muhammad Djata
“On Monday, February 5, U-Program brought the critically- acclaimed play, “”The Meeting,”” by Jeff Stetson, to the Nott Memorial at Union College. The play generated quite a successful turnout, with an audience of about 50 students, faculty, and members of the general public. Muhammad Djata of U-Program booked the play under the advice of Kerrie Wolf and also because he “”felt it was fitting, considering the events on campus this past spring and fall”” and viewed the play as “”U-Program’s way of contributing to awareness and eliminating apathy.””
The award-winning play explores the possibilities of a secret meeting between the two civil rights leaders. It takes place in Malcolm X’s closely guarded Harlem hotel room on February 14, 1965, a week before his imminent assassination. Malcolm X invites Martin Luther King Jr. to meet with him, King accepts, and the two leaders discuss their political, philosophical, and religious views in relation to the civil rights movement.
The play wittingly expresses the dynamics of the leaders’ differing views. Malcolm X, a city man from Harlem and a converted Muslim, hoped to diminish self-hate amongst African-Americans, and, although not in favor of a violent movement, encouraged self-defense violence when necessary. King, a Christian country boy from Birmingham, Alabama, led a non-violent effort for integration, inspired by Gandhi and Christian values. Although the two have strong convictions, they come to an understanding of one another as men of faith, fathers, husbands, and leaders.
The ultimate comradery between the two leaders seemed unlikely to Abigail Pleeter, ’10, who said, “”I would never think that they would have ever come to an understanding of each other.”” Some audience members also took note of the emphasis placed upon Malcolm X. Ann Fleming Brown, Associate Dean of Admissions, suggested that the play “”emphasized X because people know more about King.””
The play generally boded well with the audience, even leaving several audience members, including Elsie Otero, Assistant Director of AOP, in tears. Both Otero and Fleming Brown noted how X “”foresees the end of his life.”” Aside from the emotional aspects of the play, “”seeing [X and King] interact and speak about the common misconceptions of one another was interesting,”” said Na’eem Crawford, ’08, who also asserted that the play was “”good for the school.””
The Grimes Theatre Group actors Wesley Lawrence Taylor, Jeff Robinson and Michael Nurse performed in “”The Meeting”” at Union. Taylor first read the play about 15 years ago and has acted in it ever since. Both Robinson and Nurse first became interested in the play when they saw the American Playhouse adaptation on PBS in 1989. Robinson has been performing the play for over ten years, Nurse for over five.
The actors cited several positive attributes of “”The Meeting.”” Robinson said that “”what is interesting is that this play is subjective,”” as they have “”performed for audiences who side with Malcolm X and for those who side with Martin Luther King Jr.”” Nurse noted that “”it’s a play, so these grand historical figures are real people, and [the audience] gets to hear what these people were about.””
“”The Meeting,”” as Taylor put it, is essentially “”a powerful piece”” that “”piques the interest of the audience”” and “”makes you want to learn more about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.”””