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.
Thanks for another great read, Ernie, as it reminded me of the enlightening day we spent at the Natl. Civil Right Museum which was the Lorraine Motel where Martin L. King was assassinated. His room and the one next to it where his aides stayed is intact as it was when he was killed. The building across the street where the killer did his terrible deed is also part of the museum.
It was a very sobering experience to go through the sad history of how our black citizens were treated for too long. We can easily forget that which we never personally experienced, and that’s why everyone should go to this museum to refresh what we have heard about, but haven’t ourselves been personally affected by.
The sit-ins at the dimestore counters because blacks couldn’t sit down and order food was well documented; there also is an actual bus in which the Rosa Parks story is told.
I just finished reading “Mudbound” which is a fiction story but I know that similar incidents have happend and it is another bad memory that I don’t like to think about.
It’s set in Mississippi in 1946, and a black man and a white man come home from fighting in WW2; the white man’s family has a farm and has the black man’s parents as their sharecroppers. You know it probably won’t end up nicely, but well-written, and a sobering jolt to think that that happened not so long ago.
Ernie McCray says
Thanks, Nancy, for sharing aspects of Black History/American History that occurred not too long ago in the scheme of things.