Philadelphia Premiere By One Of America’s Most Important New Playwrights

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the leader merge in Katori Hall’s award-winning drama The Mountaintop, receiving its Philadelphia premiere at Philadelphia Theatre Company on January 18-February 17 at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre (Broad and Lombard Streets).  Directed by Patricia McGregor, the two-person cast features Sekou Laidlow and Amirah Vann.

Previews begin Friday, January 18 with Opening Night on Wednesday, January 23.  Performances run Tuesday through Sunday until February 17.  Tickets starting at $46 are available by calling the PTC Box Office at 215-985-0420 or visiting  Philadelphia Theatre Company’s Suzanne Roberts Theatre is located at Broad and Lombard Streets.

Set in Memphis on April 3, 1968, The Mountaintop imagines the events that might have taken place the night before the assassination of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After delivering his magnificent “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, an exhausted and defeated Dr. King retires to Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel where he encounters a mysterious and spirited stranger as an epic storm rages outside.

The Mountaintop received its world premiere in London at Theatre 503 before transferring to Trafalgar Studios in the West End, winning the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play.  It then premiered on Broadway in 2011, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett.

“We are so proud to be giving Katori Hall her Philadelphia premiere.  Although she paints a respectful and vulnerable portrait of Dr. King at a crossroads in his life, her voice is an imaginative and audacious one and her sense of theatricality is thrilling and unexpected,” said PTC’s Producing Artistic Director Sara Garonzik.  “Producing The Mountaintop in a year that commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the iconic “I Have A Dream” speech is the most fulfilling way a theater can celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and we are honored to be doing so through the vision of this rising playwright and her equally talented director and collaborator, Patricia McGregor.”

According to playwright Katori Hall, “King changed the world, but he was not a deity.  He was a man, a human being.  So it was important to show him as such: vulnerable.”

She continued: “When my mother was 15 years old, Dr. King came to speak at Mason Temple in Memphis, and she wanted to go and see him.  She lived around the corner of the Lorraine Hotel and had seen King speak before.  But this time, her mother told her no because she had heard through the grapevine that someone was going to bomb the church.  So this play comes out of my mother’s missed opportunity.”

Katori Hall (Playwright), the winner of the Olivier Award for The Mountaintop, is the author of Hurt Village, which received its world premiere at Off-Broadway’s Signature Theatre and won the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize; Children of Killers (National Theatre, London); Hoodoo Love  Cherry Lane Theatre); Remembrance (Women’s Project); Saturday Night/Sunday Morning; WHADDABLOODCLOT!!!; The Hope Well; Our Lady of Kibeho; and Pussy Valley. Her numerous awards and fellowships include the 2009-10 Lark Play Development Center Playwrights of New York (PONY) Fellowship, the Arena Stage American Voices New Play Residency, the Kate Neal Kinley Fellowship, two Lecomte du Nouy Prizes from Lincoln Center, the Fellowship of Southern Writers Bryan Family Award in Drama, a NYFA Fellowship, the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Playwriting Award (William Inge Theatre Festival).  Hall is a graduate of Columbia University, the American Repertory Theatre Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University, and the Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace playwriting program.

Patricia McGregor (Director) is a Harlem-based director, writer, and deviser of new work.   She recently directed the Signature Theatre Company’s production of  Katori Hall’s Hurt Village, Spunk at Cal Shakes, and Holding it Down with Grammy Award Nominee Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd at Harlem Stage.  As Associate Director of Fela! on Broadway, she coached Patti LaBelle in the role of Funmailayo.  Other directing credits include: Juan and John (CTG/Douglas and Public LAB), Yerma (SMU), Blood Dazzler at Harlem Stage, and Burnt Sugar freaks James Brown at The Apollo Theater.  She is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.

Sekou Laidlow (Dr. King) makes his PTC debut, having previously appeared in such regional theater productions as Of Mice and Men at Pioneer Theater Company, Runaway Home at Studio Theater, and Stonewall Country at Theatre at Lime Kiln as well as productions at Playwrights Horizons, Lambs Theater, Tower Theater, and Arena Playhouse.  His television credits include Law & Order and The Wire and his performance in the short film Pop Foul earned him the Best Performance for a Lead Actor at the Columbia University Film Festival.  He received his MFA from The Juilliard School.

Amirah Vann (Camae) has appeared Off-Broadway in Instinct at Lion Theater, Blueprint at Kirk Theater, Laughing Pictures at Flea Theater, The Making of Eugenie Doe at Ohio Theater, and Wax Wings at The Wild Project.  Regionally she has performed in several productions at Old Globe Theater as well as in readings at McCarter Theatre, Old Vic New Voices, and Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.  A graduate of Fordham University and NYU Tisch Graduate Acting Program, she is the recipient of the Princess Grace Award in Acting.

The Mountaintop brings together the creative team of set designer Matt Saunders, costume designer ESOSA, lighting designer Ben Stanton, sound designer Bart Fasbender, and projection designer Jorge Cousineau.   Saunders, a 2007 Haas Award winner, won a Special Citation OBIE Award for Hell Meets Henry Halfway and is the Associate Artistic Director of the OBIE Award-winning New Paradise Laboratories.  ESOSA, a finalist on Project Runway, Season 7 (as Emilio Sosa), was nominated for a Tony Award for Porgy and Bess and received a Lucille Lortel Award for Meet Vera StarkStanton, whose work appeared at PTC in Humor Abuse, designed the lights for the Broadway production of An Enemy of the People, Into the Woods at the Delacorte Theater, and Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of The Whipping Man, for which he received a Lucille Lortel nomination.  Fasbender returns to PTC where he worked on The Outgoing Tide, Reasons to be Pretty, Ruined, and Humor Abuse.   Cousineau, a 2004 Haas Award winner and recipient of four Barrymore Awards and a Lucille Lortel Award, designed sound for PTC’s productions of The Happiness Lecture, which earned him a Barrymore nomination, and Grey Gardens.