Three nights, three shows at the Palace
The Meeting, The Duel and The Elephant Man come to Manch
By Robert Greene
Theater fans looking for a little variety could do a lot worse than the
Palace Theatre next month.
Next month, the Palace will offer not one, not two, but three different
one-night shows for your viewing pleasure. All three shows — The
Meeting, The Duel and The Elephant Man — have, or will have, longer runs
at the West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth.
What if the two greatest civil rights icons in United States
history, who openly disagreed with one another, had a secret meeting?
And what if, during the course of this meeting, each leader gained a
greater understanding of the other, and they decided to come together
for the greater good?
That’s the premise of The Meeting, an acclaimed drama about a fictitious
encounter between civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and
Malcolm X. It premiered at the Palace last year at this time.
The two men really did meet after a King press conference in 1964 but
nobody knows for sure what they talked about. Written by Jeff Stetson,
The Meeting is a “what-if” exercise blended with factual elements.
The action takes place in a Harlem hotel, where Malcolm X and his
bodyguard, Rashad, are staying. Malcolm has requested a secret meeting
with King, who also is in New York,
The two men fall into a spirited debate about their differing approaches
to improving the lot of the black man in a predominantly white society —
Dr. King hoping to find racial harmony through love and peaceful
resistance and Malcolm X reconciled to violence and revenge, if needed.
Malcolm X is unable to shake Dr. King’s commitment and composure — even
when he defeats him in a bout of arm wrestling. In the play, Malcolm X’s
Chicago home has just been fire-bombed and, as he prepares to leave, Dr.
King gives him a present: a much-loved doll that his daughter had asked
him to give to Malcolm’s. The two men then arm wrestle again, this time
to a draw, an act symbolic not only of their clash of wills but also of
their conflicting beliefs.
“Malcolm, in this piece, is trying to ruffle Martin’s feathers, get him
flustered,” Blair Hundertmark, director of the show, said in an earlier
interview. “But Martin is two steps ahead of him just like in a game of
chess. It’s a very dense, cerebral play, and I wanted the action to
underscore that, but with subtlety.”
The Meeting plays at 7 p.m. Jan. 17, at the Palace, 80 Hanover St.
Tickets are $25
Aaron Burr (1756-1836) is remembered not so much for his military
service and tenure as the third vice president, under Thomas Jefferson,
as for his duel with Alexander Hamilton (the guy on the $10 bill).
Jefferson dropped Burr from his ticket for the 1804 election, and Burr
ran for governor of New York instead. Hamilton opposed Burr, once his
friend, because he believed Burr started a Federalist secession movement
in New York. Burr demanded that Hamilton recant the charge but Hamilton,
wriggling under a scandal of his own, could not afford to make the
gesture. Burr responded by challenging Hamilton to a duel.
On July 11, 1804, the enemies met outside of Weehawken, NJ. Hamilton’s
shot went wild but Burr shot and fatally wounded his foe. The bullet
entered Hamilton’s abdomen above his right hip, piercing Hamilton’s
liver and spine, and he died the following day. Burr later learned that
Hamilton intended to avert his fire during the duel. His response:
“Contemptible, if true.”
The Duel is an original play about the infamous duel, with music and
soundscape composed by Jose Duque. The show kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Jan.
26, at the Palace. Tickets are $25.
Joseph Merrick (1862-1890), better known as the Elephant Man, was born
in Leicester, England, and began showing signs of deformity at age 5.
His mother died when he was 11 and he was forced to live with his father
and stepmother. The stepmother did not want him and out the door he
Merrick was forced to earn a living by selling shoe polish on the street
and then as a sideshow attraction in the United Kingdom and in Belgium.
Merrick was befriended by Dr. Frederick Treves, a physician at London
Hospital, where Merrick was given a permanent home. He was something of
a celebrity at the time, eventually becoming a favorite of Queen
Victoria. Treves later wrote that Merrick always wanted to go to a
hospital for the blind — so that he could find a woman who would not be
frightened of his appearance. He died in 1890 from suffocation while
sleeping. Merrick was unable to sleep horizontally due to the weight of
his head, but may have tried to do so to imitate normal behavior, or so
the story goes.
story became the basis of a 1979 Tony Award-winning play, and in the
following year an Academy Award-nominated film. In the play, his name
was changed, accidentally, to John.
The local production of The Elephant Man is set for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27,
at the Palace. Tickets are $25. For tickets to any of the above shows,
call the Palace box office at 668-5588