Within the framework of Black History Month, the Black Theatre Workshop will present Jeff Stetson’s acclaimed one-act play The Meeting at the Segal Centre February 22-March 1.
Written in 1987, the play explores an imagined conversation between Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, two of the most charismatic and influential figures of the civil-rights movement.
“These men are obviously fighting the same fight against racial inequality,” says Quincy Armorer, the Black Theatre Workshop’s artistic director. While King, a Southern Baptist minister, believed in absolute non-violence, Malcolm X, who embraced Islam, said the struggle for freedom must be fought by “any means necessary.”
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“Martin’s stance was coming from a place of love. Malcolm thinks Martin is passive, the pawn of the white man, opposed to taking action,” Armorer says. “Their experiences were very different, with Martin from the South and Malcolm more urban, from the north. They educate each other on what their past has been, and though they have different approaches they are on the same team.”
The play draws on the real words spoken by these two men and shines a light on the civil-rights movement.
Jeff Stetson, an award-winning playwright, has stated that one reason for developing this play was that he noticed students who did not live through those momentous events had very little knowledge about the sacrifices made and the issues involved in that chapter of history. The debate in the play, whether achieving a noble cause merits using “any means necessary” or whether a categorical refusal of violence is tantamount to passivity, involves philosophical questions beyond the immediate context.
“What is really great about The Meeting is that you see these two men with different philosophies and religions while you also get a sense of what drives them. It is not about confronting each other but an actual attempt to come to a mutual understanding. At its root there is this desire to come together.”
During the first weeks of February, BTW will take the play to high schools before it reaches the Segal Centre. When asked whether he thought the issues would be too complex for students to grasp, Armorer admitted he had wondered about that as well when choosing this play.
“This is not an elementary school play, but I talked to friends who have high school kids and they absolutely can relate. What I’ve found over the year is that we don’t give our young people enough credit.”
More info: 514-739-7944, blacktheatreworkshop.ca