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Carrboro ArtsCenter play to explore human side of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Martin Luther King, An Interpretation” explores a side of Dr. King that many don’t see – his human side, according to playwright and director Ira Knight.

Knight said his inspiration for writing a play about King’s human side came after hearing one of King’s speeches. It struck him differently than it had before.

“I thought about him in a different way,” Knight said. “As a father myself, thinking of some of the things he may have gone through and thinking of him as a human being instead of some icon or an alien creature from outer space that we can’t really relate to.”

The play is a one-man show featuring John Ivey as King. The character of King was intriguing to Ivey.

“The introspection of King had a great, great appeal to me because I grew up in the era where he kind of made his mark,” Ivey said.

The production originally premiered in November, following the election. At the end of each performance, there is a question and answer session with the audience where King’s legacy and relevancy are discussed. Following one of the question and answer sessions, Knight was approached by a member of the audience.

“There was actually an anonymous benefactor that I met with afterwards that said, ‘This work right here, this can’t stop here. It has to be continued.’ So they actually underwrote the cost of doing this six-month residency at the ArtsCenter,” Knight said.

Patrick Phelps-McKeown, the marketing director at the ArtsCenter, said that the ArtsCenter was proud to host the play.

“Ira is a leading member of the local theater community and has presented several great shows at The ArtsCenter before, so partnering with him for this production was a natural fit,” he said.

Phelps-McKeown also said that the ArtsCenter is dedicated to providing a platform for a diverse range of creative voices. Knight’s play fit that mold as a powerful look at the iconic civil rights leader and provided insight into the fight for civil right both in King’s day and our own time.

Knight said that after the election many people were feeling powerless, so he thought a look at King would benefit those feeling hurt by the election.

“It’s designed to really provoke though, to inspire, and the human condition is what it is and it’s not worse today than it was,” he said. “There are some things that may get us down, but actually if you see part of the play, it’s going to put into context that what we are facing right now, is nowhere near as bad as it has been in the past. So it’s to inspire and uplift us as individuals and not as a collective, but each of us, because we each have a responsibility.”


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