By Alicia Stemper/Vitamin O
“Each group sees the same thing, but they see it in a different way” says actor John Ivey about Martin Luther King, an Interpretation. Ira Knight is the playwright, producer, and director of the one-man show. Inspiration for the piece came 8 or 9 years ago as Knight listened to a recording of King’s final speech in Memphis and tried to imagine living under a death sentence the way King did. Although short at 30 minutes, an audience dialogue with Knight and Ivey immediately follows each performance of the play. This intimate session adds to the power of the piece. Knight notes, “This is never the same play twice because audience participation shapes the next performance.”
Initially performed during a three night run last November, an audience member anonymously underwrote a 2017 performance residency at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro; the play will now run one Saturday night through June. This pleases Knight who feels Martin Luther King’s story deserves attention more than only during Black History month; he does not want the man to be reduced to a seasonal icon.
Upcoming shows are March 18, April 29, May 27, and June 24. Tickets and information about booking a private performance for schools, organizations, or other groups is available at www.IraKnight.org. Recently performed at Chapel Hill High School, Ivey said about the 400+ students in that audience, “They got it.” There are elements of the play’s portrayal of King that “anyone can identify with” but Knight’s writing and Ivey’s performance both challenge the audience to go deeper and ponder the pressures and the idolatry King faced. “I love being this character,” Ivey said, but he confesses that after the emotional rigor of each show, “Sleep is not far away.”