Mark Spencer, co-director of Gary’s West Side Theatre Guild’s production of “The Meeting,” is aware of the task in bringing civil rights pioneers Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X to the stage.
“We’re not just doing some characters that some writer invented,” he said. “We’re doing iconic figures in history. We’re doing real people. We have to make sure that we are doing justice to these people.”
Opening Thursday and running through Oct. 29 at West Side’s intimate 120-seat theater, “Meeting” is a fictional summit between the two African American civil rights leaders. Held in 1965 in a hotel room in Harlem, “Meeting” notes the philosophical and personal differences between King and Malcom X, but also examines common ground shared by the two activists.
Penned by American playwright and screenwriter Jeff Sessions, whose credits include the equally acclaimed plays “Blood on the Leaves” and “Fathers and Other Strangers,” “Meeting” made its stage debut in 1987 and was the recipient of more than a half dozen NAACP Theatre Awards. It was adapted for the small screen two years later, directed by celebrated actor Bill Duke.
Although the play takes place more than a half century ago and was first staged three decades ago, “Meeting,” in Spencer’s eyes, remains relevant to audiences today.
“I think history repeats itself, and we have the opportunity to strategize and improve (our lives),” he said. “And I think with these two positions on civil rights and justice, we can learn from the history of struggle as well as contemplating and strategizing methods to further civil rights in our community today and for everyone.”
Jonathan Floyd Moore is King and Ryan Robinson is Malcom X in West Side Theatre Guild’s “Meeting.” Rounding out the cast is D’Arnaz Gaston Jr., who plays Malcom X’s bodyguard, Rashad.
“Stand Up!,” an original West Side Theatre Guild production promoting positive solutions to and raising awareness of a myriad of issues facing teenagers today, will be presented prior to each “Meeting” performance.
Next up for West Side Theatre Guild is “Lyrics: Rebirth,” scheduled to open Dec. 14.