Ira Knight was sitting in his car outside of a Durham Target nine years ago when he heard Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech for the first time.
The day before King’s assassination on April 3, 1968, King delivered the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, in which he calls for unity and nonviolent protests and says he wants to live a long life but does not fear any man.
“His speech struck me in a way like nothing else I’ve ever heard,” said Knight, a business system analyst for Duke Student Affairs. “This is a husband and father who knows his death is looming. How does that feel? It’s absolutely thought-provoking.”
Knight put his thoughts to paper and wrote “From Myth to Man: Marin Luther King, An Interpretation.” The one-man play has King (performed by actor John Ivey), contemplating his family and journey as a civil rights leader minutes before he was killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968.
The play premiered in November of 2016 and had a six-month residency at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro in 2017. It will return to the stage Jan. 30 and 31 at Duke’s von der Heyden Studio Theater in the Rubenstein Arts Center. The show is free. No reservations are required.
This will be the first time Knight – a playwright, producer, director and author – has shown his work at duke.
“The way Duke has treated and partnered with me on this project has been fantastic,” Knight said. “Duke Arts staff worked to make this a success.”
Katy Clune, arts communication specialist for Duke Arts, worked with Knight to include the play as part of Duke’s 2020 MLK Commemoration.
“We were so excited to host this production when we found out about ‘From Myth to Man,’” Clune said. “We are continually impressed by the creative energy of our students, visiting artists and our fellow colleagues.”
A question and answer session with Knight and actor John Ivey will follow the 30-minute performance.
“This play draws on King’s humanity and brings him out of this mythical realm,” Knight said. “We don’t think of leaders getting tired, grumpy or catching a cold. I wanted to convey Dr. King as a human.”
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