Set in the turbulent times of the Civil Rights Movement, The Meeting by Jeff Stetson, produced by Afterthought Theatre Co, centers on a fictional meeting between two real life icons, Malcolm X and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who come together to discuss their separate points of view and approaches in the fight for equality.
HE SAID: Afterthought’s production delivered actors who both physically resembled their characters and brought the spirit of their respective legend to life. Harlem’s own, David Pinckney, breathed the confidant passion and abrasive eloquence with which Malcolm led his followers. Cris Davenport played Dr. King with a peaceful sturdiness I can only imagine would be necessary to follow through on his message of non-violence. More importantly, both men found a way to go beyond the public image of the two legends and show them as men, with real fears, concerns, and love for their families and their people. The script sometimes got the better of the actors, with the occasional stumbling over or running together of words, but overall both actors had a wonderful grasp on the ideas of the philosophies and arguments that allowed them to let the words flow out.
SHE SAID: I was especially impressed with the passion of both of the actors portraying these icons. They were discussing ideas with a lot of intellectual heft, but the remarkable impression I was left with after the performance was how passionately each of them cared about the future of the black community in this country, and how vehemently each believed that his approach was the clear path to success. The contrast in the way that this passion was instantiated (anger and compassion) created nonstop dramatic tension that was quite enjoyable.
HE SAID: After the show, there was a photomontage that included images ranging from slavery, to the movement and its leaders, to current leaders. Then we were treated to a talkback (where the actors and director sit on stage and answer questions). In this case, the questions turned into a discussion about the movement, these two men, and how their fight and sacrifices have shaped the future. It was really thought provoking to consider how Martin and Malcolm would feel about the state of things in America today.
SHE SAID: The talkback was also one of my favorite parts of the evening. First, we were treated to inside information about how each of the actors prepared for his role, which I always find fascinating. We also got to hear a bit of about the history of that production in this part of the country. Second, the audience was genuinely welcomed into a dialogue about these men, and what they would have thought of our country today. It reminded me of the power that live theatre can have – not only inspiring ideas and sparking dialogue, but sparking action in the surrounding community to make it a better place for all its members.
HE SAID: The things I really wanted to see revamped were the pre-show and post-show technical elements. Before the show, there was a random shuffle of R&B playing, which included “Icebox” by Omarion for some reason. I wasn’t sure what he had to do with the piece I was about to see. When I left, I started thinking, “What if that photo montage, minus the current leaders, had played before the show? What if, instead of a random R&B mix, they played a mix of speeches of Dr. King and Malcolm? Could they play clips of their speeches over songs from that period? What if after the show, they focused more on events that took place during/after the time of the play and how that has shaped today?” I had a ton of ideas that I personally think would have put the audience as a whole more in the spirit of the times in which the play took place.
SHE SAID: I definitely agree that the dramatic action would have been more immediately powerful if they had painted a vivid picture of this frightening time period before the play began. The photomontage ended with a question about the future, literally closing with a picture of Barack Obama. I think if the production had been book-ended with photos, starting with a historical montage leading up to the fictional events in the play, and then followed by one outlining how the world has been changed by these two men, it would have been even more impact.
THEY SAID: We have seen shows that left us in awe of the amazing technical elements. We have seen shows where we were dancing in our seats because of a show stopping number. We have seen shows where we laughed the whole time until our sides hurt. However, more often than not, we leave those shows having had a great night and nothing more. The Meeting, produced by Afterthought Theatre Co, was not one of those shows. There wasn’t a flashy set, show stopping number, or hysterical slapstick. It was a simple show. It had three people, one set, and was only a little over an hour long. But in all of its simplicity, this show managed to accomplish something rare: it managed to stick with us for days after we saw it. The show left us affected. The performances, the photos, and the talk back all had us speaking about the show and its relevance in our lives days later, and that is truly special. So, if you ever get the opportunity to see the show, do it. We are sure that you’ll leave and be thinking about it for days.
For more information regarding the encore performance and fundraiser on July 31st click HERE