‘The Mountaintop’ Stage Play Returns to Imagine MLK’s Last Night Alive At The Lorraine Motel

Playwright Katori Hall has a new theater show that pulls back the veil on what the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. might’ve experienced the night before his death.

Written by Hall and directed by Patricia McGregor, The Mountaintop follows MLK’s return to the Lorraine Motel on April 3, 1968, after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. The play highlights the fictional encounter between MLK (played by Jon Michael Hill) and Camae, a young maid at the Lorraine Motel ( played by Amanda Warren) who delivers MLK’s room service.

In a dialogue that highlights the humanity of who MLK was as a person, the fictional version of the famed civil rights leader wrestles with himself over the realities regarding racism, morality and the fight for justice while a storm rages through Memphis. The night in question is significant as it was MLK’s final hours before he was fatally shot while standing on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968.

Hall has revived her original play a number of times including in 2021 with director Roy Alexander Weise, The Guardian reports. Controversy stems around the early flirtation between MLK and Camae that seemingly plays off age-old accounts of MLK’s alleged infidelity, via IB Times.

Their discussion sees King open up about his heart complications as well as his alleged cheating encounters. He also touches on political debates surrounding the war in Vietnam, the rights of sanitation workers in Tennessee, which prompted his visit to Memphis and his non-violent approach to activism compared to Malcolm X and the Black Panthers.

Hall wrote the play after listening to her mother recall her plans to attend MLK’s “Mountaintop” speech but was stopped by her mother, Hall’s grandmother, who prevented her daughter from attending what would be King’s last speech because she believed the church where was speaking would get bombed.

“Big Mama … was like, ‘You know they’re gon’ bomb that church, girl. You know they’re gon’ bomb that church, so you need to sit your butt down and you ain’t going to that church,’ ” Hall recounted to NPR in 2011.

She ended up naming the maid Camea after her mother as a nod to her matriarch’s desire to attend King’s last speech. The Mountaintop is currently showing in Los Angeles at the Gil Cates Theater until July 9. You can buy tickets HERE.

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