With Martin Luther King Jr. Day coming up on January 16, what better way to celebrate the life of a man who moved mountains than by seeing The Mountaintop play showcasing his last days on earth. On this week’s Around Atlanta edition of the Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio show, co-hosts Mandy Holm and Todd Schnick are joined by The Mountaintop’s director Eric J. Little.
After graduating from Louisiana State University with a master’s in fine arts in acting, Little moved to Atlanta to pursue his career in theater and acting. He has continually grown his career from being a performer at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, to teaching an acting class and directing shows at Clark Atlanta University.
Kicking off a trend of directing plays focused on influential American figures, in 2015 Little directed a play depicting the story of Muhammad Ali at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company in Atlanta. Additionally, Little recently directed a play called Thurgood, focused on the life of Thurgood Marshall and most recently is serving as the director of The Mountaintop featuring the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final hours.
“It’s a blessing and scary at the same time,” said Little when asked about his growing director portfolio.
Little is no stranger to the Aurora Theatre where The Mountaintop will be opening tonight. This is his third time at the establishment, his first two as an actor. When asked why he loves the Aurora Theatre he states, “They do diverse work. Everything from dramas to comedies to big musicals.”
The Mountaintop takes place on April 3, 1968, the day before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. He comes back to the motel in Memphis to be alone after giving his famous speech, but he ends up meeting a maid. Without giving too much of the story and ending away, Little describes the play as having more humor than the audience would expect and “pulling the curtain back to see another side of the great Dr. King.”
When asked what his favorite part of the play is, Little replies, “The ending.” However, the ending cannot be mentioned, so he also states, “The interaction between the maid and Dr. King. They challenge each other, and you learn more about the characters than you would expect.” Little also states, “The play also challenges us [the audience]. It challenges our beliefs – spirituality and civil rights beliefs.”
The playwright, Katori Hall, is from Memphis and finds her inspiration within the city. The Mountaintop was influenced from her mother, who grew up in the 1960’s and was not allowed to see Dr. King at the Mason Temple. This play is a gift to her mother, a reenactment of what she missed. The hotel where Dr. King last stayed, The Lorraine Motel, is the setting for the play. The motel in Memphis is also home to the National Civil Rights Museum. In this motel, viewers can end their tour at room 306, the room where Dr. King last stayed. The museum has the door open and a glass wall that showcases how Dr. King left the room moments before he died.
The Mountaintop begins tonight and will play for one month Tuesday through Sunday. For more information on tickets, visit AuroraTheatre.com.
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