Robert O'Hara directs Katori Hall's The Mountaintop at Arena Stage

Mar 1, 2013
Arena Stage

Katori Hall's Olivier Award-winning drama The Mountaintop comes to Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater following an acclaimed run at the Alley Theatre in Houston, where it was hailed by the Houston Chronicle as "fast and funny, profoundly poignant, remarkably real and shimmeringly surreal." Obie Award winner Robert O'Hara (Public Theater's Wild with Happy) makes his Arena Stage directorial debut with The Mountaintop, which is produced in association with the Alley Theatre and runs March 29-May 12, 2013 in the Kreeger Theater.

Returning to their roles from Houston are Bowman Wright (Marin Theatre Company's Topdog/Underdog) as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Drama Desk Award nominee Joaquina Kalukango (Hall's Hurt Village at Signature Theatre in New York) as Camae. The Houston Chronicle declared that Wright "beautifully inhabits Dr. King with a shining sense of humanity that serves as an example to us all," while Kalukango's performance was praised by Broadway World as "radiant and brilliant, showcasing a talent for striking and stunning performances that will be worth following."

"I loved this play from the first moment I read it," says Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. "It is a beautiful and emotional look at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a time when we tend to forget the humanity of people who have shaped America. Katori's play stunned me powerfully because her imagination takes us places we can only dream of. This play told me Katori would be a wonderful match for the Resident Playwrights program."

Hailed as "daring, rousing and provocative" by Entertainment Weekly, The Mountaintop is Hall's bold reimagining of the last night of the historic life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Exhausted from delivering a significant speech, Dr. King rests in his room at the Lorraine Motel when an unexpected visit from a feisty, young maid compels him to confront his own humanity and the fate of our nation. Winner of the Olivier Award for Best New Play, The Mountaintop's "soul-stirring" (Variety) storytelling fuses theatricality with spirituality to reach a summit that will leave audiences breathless.

"Almost 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. invigorated an entire nation, his "I Have a Dream Speech" changing the trajectory of American history," shares Hall. "On the Washington mall, he made the Promised Land a possibility for our country. Now, with a monument erected to celebrate his life and legacy near that same place, we as Americans are looking back. We see how far we've come, and how far we've still to go. To have The Mountaintop premiere only a stone's throw from this history in D.C., the nation's capital, is a great honor, and I hope the play inspires audience members to reconnect to the man who despite so many obstacles and challenges changed our world for the better. The play's message is simple-seeing the humanity in our heroes allows us to see the hero in ourselves."

O'Hara, an accomplished playwright himself whose writing was most recently seen in D.C. at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, adds "One of the many reasons I'm so excited about this production of The Mountaintop coming to our nation's capital is the fact that the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is being brought to life with the second inauguration of the first black President. I think what audiences can expect with this show is a marrying of the brutal truth with fantastical fiction surrounding a legend making Dr. King wholly human. Katori Hall is a writer who makes me proud to call myself an artist and an American, and The Mountaintop gives to the audience what I love about the theater and what Dr. King gave to America in the form of a dream, a grand and mysterious 'what if?'"

Hall is an inaugural resident playwright of Arena Stage's American Voices New Play Institute. Though she officially completed her residency in December 2012, she remains actively involved with Arena Stage, including a recent research and development trip to Africa supported by the Institute, as well as an upcoming workshop of her new plays in April at the Mead Center. Arena Stage sees the playwright residencies as ongoing, long-term relationships with writers, and even when a residency has been completed, the relationship and commitment to a writer's legacy and their body of work continues.