This January, fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s death, Anne Arundel County residents will be able to honor his legacy in a new, inspirational way. They can enjoy, right here in Annapolis, a professional production of the gospel musical, I Have a Dream – a play about Dr. King’s life and the civil rights movement he led.
The production is a collaboration between the Martin Luther King Jr Committee of Anne Arundel County and TheatreSouth, a Florida-based organization dedicated to educate, enlighten and strengthen local talents through theater arts.
I Have a Dream first debuted on Broadway in 1976 with Billy Dee Williams playing Dr. King, and the production has toured throughout the US and internationally since then. As the New York Times described it, “I Have a Dream weaves the texts of Dr. King’s speeches, sermons and other writings along with 28 musical numbers into a pageant-like musical drama recounting his life and times, beginning with the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycotts and ending with his assassination in Memphis in 1968, at the age of 39. Dr. King’s speeches are the carefully spaced high points of a play that offers a straightforward chronology of his public life, interspersed with a few short family vignettes.”
The Annapolis production features both Broadway-seasoned professional actors, notably Jahi Kearse as Dr. King, with local community theater talent as actors, dancers, singers and musicians. The Fresh Start Gospel Choir of Glen Burnie and the Naval Academy Gospel Choir will join professional soloists for gospel songs like We Shall Overcome and Free at Last.
Combining professional actors with local talent has enabled members of the community to play a role. Mary DesChamps is a good example. Though she has never been in a play before, her audition resulted in a role for her as a narrator, reading a portion of Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail, as others in the “Amen Corner” punctuate the reading with Amens. She is excited to be a part of what she expects to be “an excellent, awesome play.”
Dan Burkarth, a professional actor who recently played in the production of Showboat at the Dallas Opera and The Chosen in New York, will play JFK and several other roles in I Have a Dream. To him, the production is particularly relevant today, not only because it honors Dr. King’s legacy, but because it points out the issues of civil rights, women’s rights, voting rights and human rights that are still in the forefront.
Carl Snowden, the founder and director of the MLK Jr Committee, put it a different way. He says the highlight of the play is Dr. King’s life and its rich legacy. It helps us to remember that the struggle is ongoing, fifty years after his death and on the thirtieth anniversary of the MLK Committee.
If you plan to attend the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner on January 12, you’ll get a sneak preview, as a 20-minute segment from the play is included in the event. But to see the entire performance, enjoy the music, celebrate the County’s community talent, and gain a more comprehensive perspective of Dr. King’s life and legacy, purchase a ticket for the production the following evening, January 13. The two-act musical begins at 7:00 pm Saturday, January 13 at the Key Auditorium of St. Johns College, 60 College Avenue, Annapolis. Saturday-night theater tickets are $35 for general public and $20 for students (with ID) and seniors (over 65).
Order tickets at www.mlkjrmd.org. For more information, call 410-269-1524. Free parking is provided at the State Garage on 19 St. John’s Street.
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