When “The Mountaintop” comes to the Midlands this weekend, audiences will get a glimpse into the last night of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life.
The play, presented by Charleston’s PURE Theater on a statewide tour, is a fictional account of King’s last night, focusing on the interactions between the civil rights leader and a hotel maid, Camae, who delivers his room service at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.
While based on one of America’s most iconic figures, the play is more of an examination of its two characters than a piece of historical drama, said Joy Vandervort-Cobb, who plays Camae.
“Audiences shouldn’t be frightened (off). It’s not a historical piece except for the fact that it’s about Dr. King,” Vandervort-Cobb said. “It’s funny, it’s touching and it gets to a part of Dr. King we’re not as familiar with.”
Vandervort-Cobb said Camae is her favorite role of all the ones she’s had in her career as an actor.
“There is a light about this woman who is this hotel maid that has this encounter with Dr. King,” she said. “Just as you think it’s going in one direction … you can’t imagine what direction it is going in. I love doing this role and thinking about being this person.”
The play humanizes King, painting him as a person as opposed to a figurehead, said Katie Fox, executive director of the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College.
“What excited us about this play was that Dr. King was treated as a person. We expect great things from our students, but it’s also important to say people who did great things had some regrets and weren’t perfect,” Fox said. “We don’t want you to be perfect, but to do your best for yourselves and your families. You don’t have to be superhuman to do very difficult things to help the world.”
That theme is transferrable to modern day public figures, Vandervort-Cobb said.
“It also extends that conversation,” she said. “We look at community leaders … and we don’t ascribe to them any flaws. We put them on a pedestal and when we see a flaw, we kick them off.”
The play is on tour around South Carolina with support from the South Carolina Arts Commisson, in an effort to increase the frequency of touring professional theater companies from within South Carolina, said director Sharon Graci.