Hundreds Honor Dr. King at “Honoring A King” at The Publick Playhouse
(A review by J. Joy Matthews Alford, Event Coordinator to The Prince George’s Arts Council)
Hundreds of Prince George’s county residents were treated to the premiere presentation of Honoring A King, a cornucopia of socially-conscious and inspirational poetry, classical music and African drumming, at The Publick Playhouse. An intergenerational and multi-ethnic audience comprised of families and extended families, neighbors, educators, church goers and artists from throughout the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area, came to pay tribute to the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by attending this commemorative tribute, which was presented during the time of national observance of the 43rd anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.
Honoring A King, a poetry-based tribute that honors one of this nation’s most revered icons, is the creation of Prince George’s County-based poetry ensemble, Collective Voices. The premiere of this poetry and music-filled dramatic presentation was a collaborative project sponsored by The Prince George’s Arts Council (PGAC) in collaboration with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) with support from the Coalition of African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA) in partnership with Collective Voices.
Renowned radio host and personality, Jacquie Gales Webb served as Mistress of Ceremonies at this culturally significant and inspirational event. Featured poet cast members were Collective Voices (Sylvia “Ladi Di” Beverly, J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford and Andre “Brenardo” Taylor), Dyone Mitchell, Carolyn Joyner and Avery Lanier-Tynes.
Each act opened with soul-piercing classical renderings by soprano Karen Wiggs-Wilbanks accompanied by renowned pianist Patrick D. McCoy, who presented Lift Every Voice and, Dr. King’s favorite gospel song, If I Can Help Somebody, in Act 1 and 2, respectively. Drummers from The Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers opened the tribute and seamlessly accompanied poets throughout both acts.
The tribute was presented in two aesthetically engaging acts with beautifully appointed stage settings, created by Terri and Dale Allen of Thelemaque Associates. Vincent Miles of V. Arturo Miles & Associates, who served as stage director for this historically accurate theatrical production, masterfully interlaced visual imagery of the past with the poetry, sermon and song presented by the cast. The archival images of Dr. King and scenes from protest and civil rights moments in history helped transport audience members to the by-gone era represented in the production.
The first act called audience members to travel with the cast back in time to a “reenactment of a 60’s era protest march” culminating at a lunch counter where protesters present powerful and engaging poetry on the issues of equality, social justice, morality, spiritual awareness and more while lamenting the nation’s lack of progress on issues for which Dr. King gave his life. Act two, an “after the protest” scene, opened with the protesters in the living room of the protest organizer as they reflect on the protest experience, continuing to present powerful poetry, interspersed with speech and sermon excerpts ably and movingly presented by Dr. King, in the person of poet and actor Avery Lanier-Tynes.
Guests were welcomed by the very gracious and accommodating Publick Playhouse staff, who flawlessly orchestrated the series of technical requirements of this multi-tiered production, down to and including distributing the commemorative programs which were provided by M-NCPPC. Many guests had their programs autographed by cast members during the brief “meet and greet the artists” that followed the performance.
Organizations and individuals interested in contacting Collective Voices about future presentations of Honoring A King or desiring to book Collective Voices for conferences, conventions or community events may contact the group at CollectiveVoices.aol.com.