National Theatre Company of China Tours Atlanta, Birmingham, and Memphis

February 6, 2007

 

 

In preparation for the Beijing premiere of Passages of Martin Luther King in June 2007, the distinguished Chinese delegation retraced the steps of the US Civil Rights Movement.

Passages, a play written by King Institute director Clayborne Carson, recreates the journey of young King to the mature King, from youthful clergyman to passionate human rights advocate.

The visit kicked off in California, where the Chinese delegates were honored guests at a dramatic reading of Passages at the Oakland City Hall. The West Coast portion of the tour also included script adaptation meetings at the King Institute and discussions with Clarence Jones, King’s attorney and speechwriter, Reverend Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and noted Taiwanese playwright Stan Lai, visiting professor at Stanford and artistic consultant on the Beijing production.

The delegation included National Theatre Company President Zhao Youliang, award-winning theatre director Wu Xiaojiang, dramaturge Luo Dajun, Stanford production consultant Yan Shikui, and Li Yunbai, a sixteen-year old high school student, who will appear in a mini-production of Passages at her Beijing high school this spring. Caitrin McKiernan’02, the Stanford producer of the Chinese production, led the group.

From California, the delegation flew to Atlanta, Georgia, where the Chinese visitors were welcomed at Sunday services at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King preached. After services, the delegation met and interviewed Mrs. Christine King Farris, Dr. King’s sister. While in Atlanta, the visitors also toured the King Center and visited Dr. King’s birthplace and final resting place.

From there, the delegation drove to Birmingham, Alabama to visit Kelly Ingram Park, where they viewed the statues of the police dogs who attacked child protesters in 1963. The tour continued to Memphis, Tennessee where visitors were graciously hosted by Beverly Robertson, Executive Director of the National Civil Rights Museum. Robertson spoke eloquently about growing up as an African American in the 1960s. While in Memphis, the delegation was also treated to rare interviews with colleagues of the late civil rights leader.

The visit ended in Santa Barbara, California, where the UCSB Chancellor hosted a reception for the Chinese delegates. While there, Li Yunbai, the sixteen-year old high school student paired up with Chika Okafor ’07, a Stanford senior just returned from studying abroad in Beijing. Li and Okafor led a 1300-student assembly at a public high school in Santa Barbara on Dr. King, where they discussed Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and presented an excerpt of the I Have a Dream speech. Li performed in Chinese, Okafor in English.

The delegation is now back in Beijing, adapting the Passages script for the Beijing stage.

Stanford is actively seeking sponsors for the June production. Tax-deductible contributions can be made to the King Institute at Stanford. For information, please contact Caitrin McKiernan ’02 (caitrin@stanford.edu).

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Special thanks to Jodie Blum, of Mar Y Sol Event Productions, who arranged the tour, Beverly Robertson and the National Civil Rights Museum, who hosted the delegation in Memphis, Tennessee, Chancellor Henry T. Yang of UCSB, who hosted the delegation in Santa Barbara, California, and the sponsorship of President John Hennessy and Michael and Mary Brabeck.