A few of us actors got together on a Monday night to rehearse playwright Omayo’s drama, “I Am a Man,” in preparation for dramatic readings of the piece at the San Diego Repertory Theater on Monday, March 18th, and Tuesday, March 19th at 7:00 PM. The San Diego Rep is presenting the drama in collaboration with the Vagabond Theatre Project.
Each evening’s performances support “The Mountaintop,” a play by Katori Hall, which has been pleasing theater goers for weeks now at the Rep. It’s a must see about Martin Luther King’s last night before he was taken from us in Memphis.
Our play keeps Martin’s spirit alive as it is based on the travails of the black sanitation workers who, back in February 12, 1968, staged a wildcat strike backing their demands for equal pay, better working conditions and recognition of their union. The walkout shed light throughout the country on the conflicting ideas regarding civil rights and labor movements and it sparked riots and unrest that culminated in Dr. King’s assassination.
The play centers on T.O. Jones, a leader of the local who called the strike, not knowing just how big the nature of the forces against it would be in a society that resisted him being a man. Martin’s words weave through the text of the play, in and around the conflicts that might be expected when the characters are: a Jim Crow mayor trying to hold on to a world he’s known that’s gradually eroding and de-solving as wrong slowly gives into right; “rabble rouser” Jones going around demanding respect, while black “take no prisoners” nationalists bend his ear and his marriage crumbles before his very eyes. Blues lyrics bridge the scenes, capturing the sorrows and the depth of feelings of a people trying to non-violently pursue a just society where all people have an opportunity to live with dignity.
Oh, it’s theater at its best. The reading of “I Am a Man” is directed by T.J. Johnson. Abner Genece is featured as T.O. Jones. At a rehearsal this fine actor, who has played on many a stage and guest starred and co-starred on television shows like “Harry’s Law” and Law and Order: Los Angeles,” showed in the rehearsal just how complex and exasperating and heroic this T.O, Jones really is. He pulls him off the page and puts him on his feet.
With a heart and a soul. And a ton of troubles.
Join us for one of two evenings of outstanding theater. This play, like it has with me, will resurrect an important moment in our country’s history, when people out of love and hope and faith created a better world.