Angelique Powell and Michael Lake have enough life experience to know that even their heroes aren’t perfect.
They were also reminded throughout the rehearsal process that the two characters they portray in Donja R. Love’s 2018 play, “Fireflies,” which premieres Thursday at the Curtain Call Theater in Latham, are not Martin Luther. King and his wife Coretta Scott King.
While Love uses 1963 Alabama and the horrific bombing of a church that killed four young black girls on September 15 of that year as the setting for the story, the play is not about the tragedy itself. . Instead, the plot centers on a local preacher and rising star of the civil rights movement, Reverend Charles Grace, his wife Olivia, and their reaction to the bombing.
“The bombing just lets us know what the characters are going through emotionally, and my character is a new leader in the civil rights movement who has to talk about the bombing,” said Lake, a native of Schenectady. “It’s based on Martin Luther King, but my decision was to make my character contain elements of all the activists of that time. I threw them all in one person. And in the play, there comes a point where you realize that for all of his good intentions and good work, he has his flaws and insecurities, and that’s what the play is about.
In the play, Olivia is a true partner in Charles’ life and career, her work including writing many of his most passionate and best speeches.
“This play, written by black playwright Queer Donja Love, gives a much more authentic and human portrayal of these characters, and that’s why I can emphatically say that I’m not stepping into the role of Olivia thinking about she just like Correta Scott King, ”said Powell, a Schenectady resident, Shaker High graduate and 2009 Ithaca College graduate.“ Parts of the character are Coretta, and there are also parts of my mother, my grand- mothers, great-grandmothers, sisters, friends and me in Olivia. She is so relatable in a way that is both empowering and heartbreaking. “
Olivia, like her husband, also has personal issues that she has to deal with.
“I find that the older I get, the more I come to terms with the idea that no one is perfect and in fact most of us are incredibly imperfect,” said Powell. “But we are redeemable and endearing in our own way, because the human experience is so multifaceted and multidimensional, and sometimes traumatic; for some more than for others.
Capital Region theater mainstay Chris Foster, who previously worked with Lake and Powell, directs the production of Curtain Call.
“Angelique is a great actress and it’s very easy to work with her,” Foster said of Powell. “As a director, you don’t want to be the guy who always holds the water. Angelique comes in and she’s ready to explore and do her thing. She is great.”
Foster has never directed Lake before, but performed with him on stage in a Curtain Call production of “Ben Butler” in January 2020.
“I love the whole audition process and seeing new people come in, and although I’ve worked with Michael before, I’ve never directed him,” Foster said. “So when he auditioned, I knew I loved him for the role. I’ve known Michael since I taught at SCCC, and I know his work from the Will Kempe Players.
Like his two actors, Foster says he’s not trying to paint an accurate picture of MLK’s relationship with his wife.
“This room is jam packed with stuff, and the church bombing is just the kickoff that gives us the frame,” Foster said. “This is a minister who has to speak at a funeral for the little girls, but it is not MLK. It might be loosely based on King and Coretta, but it’s not them. It’s a love story about a couple. One is the dominant figure and the other is the person behind that figure, and how resentment somehow stirs up to be in that position.
“Fireflies” opened in New York City in October 2018 and is the interim work of a three-piece series by Love. The first piece, “Sugar in Our Wounds”, was set in 1862 and opened in July 2018, while the third piece in the series, “In the Middle”, centers on the Black Lives Matter movement and was in workshop before COVID. -19 Pandemic shot.
“I was part of a group that got together monthly to read plays,” said Foster, explaining how he and Curtain Call Theater founder Carol Max chose to produce the Love play. “We felt like there were a lot of good games out there, and we wanted to know more about them. Some of them are not produced regularly, but we were looking for something of real value and we came across this coin. I was very excited about it when I started reading it.
“I find, especially when it comes to representations of black people, all black people, that the representation can be very one-dimensional or two-dimensional,” said Powell. “I like this piece because it’s a very real representation of these people.”
Powell and Lake are the only two actors on stage. The set was designed by Frank Oliva, while Lily Fossner did the lighting and Alex Dietz-Kest the sound design.
O: Curtain Call Theater, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: January 6-30; performances are held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. There will be a morning on Saturday January 15 at 3 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $ 30
MORE INFO: Visit www.curtaincalltheater.com or call (518) 877-7529
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts