As one of the most important figures in American history, it is no wonder why the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is often dramatized for the stage. Check out these compelling plays that explore and cement King’s legacy and influence.
By Katori Hall
This play is a gripping reimagination of events the night before the assassination of the civil rights leader. On April 3, 1968, after delivering one of his most memorable speeches, an exhausted Dr. King retires to his room at the Lorraine Motel while a storm rages outside. When a mysterious stranger arrives with some surprising news, King is forced to confront his destiny and his legacy to his people.
By Jeff Stetson
Fascinating and dramatically compelling, this eloquent play depicts the supposed meeting of two of the most important men of modern times: Malcolm X and Dr. King. Differing in their philosophies, but alike in mutual respect, the two men debate their varying approaches to the same grave social problems: both prepared to die for their beliefs but neither aware of how soon they would meet their fates.
All the Way
By Robert Schenkkan
Recipient of The Tony Award® for Best Play
November, 1963. An assassin’s bullet catapults Lyndon Baines Johnson into the presidency. A Shakespearean figure of towering ambition and appetite, this charismatic, conflicted Texan hurls himself into the passage of the Civil Rights Act, a tinderbox issue emblematic of a divided America. Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award–winner Robert Schenkkan vividly dramatizes LBJ’s first year in office, including his negotiations with Dr. King, J. Edgar Hoover, and more. All the Way is a searing, enthralling exploration of the morality of power. It’s not personal, it’s just politics.
The Great Society
By Robert Schenkkan
The minute you gain power, you start to lose it. In this companion play to All the Way, we find LBJ in his second term of office as he struggles to fight a war on poverty as the war in Vietnam spins out of control. Besieged by opponents, Johnson marshals all his political wiles to try to pass some of the most important social programs in U.S. history. The Great Society depicts the larger-than-life politician’s tragic fall from grace, as his accomplishments—the passage of hundreds of bills to enact reform in civil and voting rights, poverty, and education—are overshadowed by the bitter failure in Vietnam.
A Song for Coretta
By Pearl Cleage
On February 6, 2006, people began lining up at dawn outside of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church to pay their respects to the late Mrs. Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. King, whose body lay in state in the small sanctuary. By mid-morning, the crowd wound down the street and around the corner of the old red brick building. People of all ages stood patiently for hours, waiting to say goodbye. At close to midnight, the crowd had dwindled to a determined few. The five fictional characters in this play are at the end of that long line of mourners.