Pictured: Gilbert Glenn Brown and Karen Malina White from the radio drama, The Mountaintop. Photo by Matt Petit.
This year, we mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, outside of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee, only a few hours after his historic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. The radio drama, The Mountaintop, imagines what may have occurred in King’s hotel room just before his tragic death.
We spoke with The Mountaintop’s Producing Director Susan Loewenberg to get her insight on this important work.
Q: What do you hope the audience takes away from this performance of The Mountaintop?
A: My hope is that our audiences come away from seeing The Mountaintop with a deeper understanding of the complex and beautiful soul of one of our greatest leaders who was taken from us at the age of 39. Who knows how he would have evolved? We can only speculate. But his message, his doubts, his frailties, his convictions, his commitment to a crucial cause deserve our undying admiration, respect and understanding.
Q: Why do you feel it’s important to highlight Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with this behind-the-scenes approach?
A: Good plays engage audiences both emotionally and intellectually. In order to accomplish emotional engagement, we need to be able see behind the façade. An audience wants more from a character than his/her public persona. When both the emotions and the intellect are engaged simultaneously you have “combustion,” and that is the mark of a good play.
Q: What’s unique about the “live-in-performance” radio drama experience? Why do you think radio is still an important medium today?
A: Live-in performance radio drama is our signature form for presenting our work. Interestingly, without elaborate sets and movement, you, the audience, are able to have a more intense experience focusing on terrific performances and indelible words. For the actors, it is a challenging feat to be able to communicate using only your voice. It requires intense concentration and an awareness that everything must be communicated vocally. I often say to actors, “It’s great to smile, but unless the smile is in your voice, no one listening will ever know that you are smiling.” Regarding the importance of radio today- yes, it is still important. But radio, like every media outlet, must adapt to the reality of digital technology. So radio now includes streaming and podcasting, all in the service of enabling the listener to avail themselves of the medium anywhere, anytime.
The Davidson College Artist Series brings The Mountaintop to Charlotte-area audiences Friday, February 23, 2018. For more information about this performance, click here.