Katori Hall, photographed at the National Civil Rights Museum in 2010, opened "The Mountaintop" in England because the British "are used to cracking open the masks of their kings."

Though playwright Katori Hall may be better known to theatergoers on Broadway and London’s West End, the native Memphian will finally see her name on a hometown marquee next year.

Her award-winning play, “The Mountaintop,” will be staged as a co-production of Circuit Playhouse and the Hattiloo Theatre Jan. 18-Feb. 10, 2013. This will be the first collaborative production for the two theaters.

“It’s an important play,” said Playhouse’s executive producer, Jackie Nichols. “It will come in the middle of Hattiloo’s capital campaign (to build a new black repertory theater in Overton Square) and also as a precursor to Black History Month.”

After winning the Olivier Award in London (the equivalent of a Tony Award) in 2009, Hall’s play premiered last year on Broadway starring Samuel L. Jackson as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Angela Bassett as a mysterious stranger who pays him a visit. The drama unfolds in a room at the Lorraine Motel — the same room now preserved by the National Civil Rights Museum — on the night before King’s assassination.

“It’s going to be a true collaboration,” says Hattiloo’s executive producer, Ekundayo Bandele. “This is going to be an excellent opportunity for a couple of soon-to-be neighbors to work together.”

In October, Hattiloo announced the construction of a new theater next door to Circuit Playhouse as part of Overton Square’s redevelopment plans. Bandele says that groundbreaking could begin this year. The current theater is on Marshall Avenue.

Broadway’s “The Mountaintop” closed on Jan. 22. Hall’s newest play, “Hurt Village,” will open Feb. 27 at the Signature Center’s Romulus Linney Courtyard theater on West 42nd Street. The gritty drama takes place in a Memphis housing project.

Memphis is also the backdrop for her play “Hoodoo Love,” which premiered in New York in 2007.

Hall, 30, graduated from Craigmont High School and attended Columbia University, Harvard drama school and the Juilliard playwriting program. She also worked as an intern at The Commercial Appeal.

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Written on January 31st, 2012 , Media


 

“I am a man. Just a man.” These are the words from playwright Katori Hall’s recent play The Mountaintop, a fictional civil rights-era piece set at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis the night before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The play premiered in London and moved on to Broadway, and has been met with both controversy and praise for its down-to-earth portrayal of King the man, rather than the public, heroic figure we are more familiar with.

theGrio: Black women ready to take Broadway by storm

Hall’s mother Camae was a major influence in the direction of the play.

“When I was young my mother told me of how she wasn’t able to see King speak when he was in Memphis. She has always regretted that,” Hall told theGrio.

Actor Samuel L. Jackson plays Dr. King in the play. Hall, who is from Memphis, uses this play, as she told the theGrio, “to look around themselves during the show and see all the people sitting there that have the potential to do just as much, if not more, than Dr. King did.”

Katori Hall is making history … through The Mountaintop and the international attention it has garnered. The Columbia University graduate received several awards and fellowships, including the 2010 Oliver Award for the Best New Play and the Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace playwright program.

What’s next for Katori Hall?
On Feb. 7, Hall will debut her latest play, Hurt Village, at the Signature Theater in New York City. The play is also set in Memphis near the Lorraine Motel, depicting life at a housing project.

Katori in her own words …

“I think what we need is for people of color to see the power behind cultural capital,” Katori Hall told theGrio in October. “The arts are tools for a people to talk about themselves. People of color have to use this tool. We need more producers of color.”

A little-known fact about Katori Hall’s work…
Samuel L. Jackson made his official Broadway debut with his portrayal of King in The Mountaintop.

THE GRIO’S Q & A TIME WITH KATORI HALL


Q: What’s next for you in this chapter of your life?

A: My play HURT VILLAGE is being produced by Signature Theatre in New York City. We begin performances Feb 7th and officially open February 27th.

 

Q. What’s a little fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: I started writing for my hometown newspaper The Commercial Appeal at age 14.

 

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: Don’t do things to be liked, do things you want to do, so that you’ll be liked for who you are. –Happy Gertrud

 

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: Memphis, Family history, the news, social issues I care about.

 

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: Lynn Nottage was my greatest supporter when I first started writing professionally. She helped me to develop my first play Hoodoo Love and started me off on my playwriting journey.

Also, John Eisner, the founder of the Lark Play Development Center, which provided me artistic and financial support when I wrote the Mountaintop. He has seen the play, like 68 times, readEVERY draft. He’s an angel.

 

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who’s craving to achieve their
dreams?

A: Aim for the stars, for if you fall, at least you’ll be caught by the treetops, which is much better than where you started–the ground.

 

Written on January 31st, 2012 , Media

On Sunday, January 22, The Mountaintop took its final bow on Broadway.  The play, starring Samuel L. Jackson in hit Broadway debut and Angela Bassett, was written by Katori Hall and directed by Kenny Leon. BroadwayWorld was on hand for the final curtain call and brings you photo coverage below!

THE MOUNTAINTOP announced last week that it had recouped its investment. The show began performances on September 22, 2011 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and opened on Thursday, October 13, 2011 for its limited engagement through Sunday. Upon closing The Mountaintop played 24 preview and 117 regular performances.

Taking place on April 3, 1968, The Mountaintop is a gripping reimagining of events the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After delivering one of his most memorable speeches, an exhausted Dr. King (Samuel L. Jackson) retires to his room at the Lorraine Motel while a storm rages outside. When a mysterious stranger (Angela Bassett) arrives with some surprising news, King is forced to confront his destiny and his legacy to his people.

Photo Credit: Peter James Zielinski


Click link to view more photos! http://broadwayworld.com/article/Photo-Coverage-THE-MOUNTAINTOP-Takes-Final-Broadway-Bow-20120124##ixzz1kQYweUma

Written on January 25th, 2012 , Media


The Broadway production of “The Mountaintop,” Katori Hall’s drama about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final night before his assassination, has recouped its entire capitalization of $3.1 million, the lead producers Jean Doumanian and Sonia Friedman announced on Wednesday. The play opened to mixed reviews in October, but ticket sales proved durable in part because of the drawing power of its stars, Samuel L. Jackson (as King) and Angela Bassett (as a mysterious motel maid).

One-third of straight plays have turned a profit on Broadway in recent years, though most of those are not significant money-makers on the scale of hits like “A Steady Rain,” which starred Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig on Broadway in 2009.

“The Mountaintop” will end its Broadway run on Sunday at the Jacobs Theater; the new musical “Once” is set to begin previews there on Feb. 28. Ms. Hall’s next production in New York will be her play “Hurt Village,” which begins performances Off Broadway at Signature Theater Company on Feb. 7.

In a statement, the “Mountaintop” producers said, “We are absolutely thrilled by the audience’s response to this inspirational new play,” adding, “we look forward to the future life this work will undoubtedly have throughout the world.”

Written on January 23rd, 2012 , Media

Producers Jean Doumanian and Sonia Friedman announced today that their premiere Broadway production of Katori Hall’s Olivier Award-winning play, The Mountaintop, which is playing to sold out houses at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 W45th Street), has recouped its entire initial investment of $3.1 million. The Mountaintop stars Samuel L. Jackson as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Angela Bassett, and is directed by Tony Award® nominee Kenny Leon (Stick Fly, Fences, A Raisin in the Sun).

In a joint statement, Doumanian and Friedman said, “We are absolutely thrilled by the  audience’s response to this inspirational new play, and even happier to be able to announce this news so close to Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. It’s been a joy to see packed houses of engaged, and cheering theatergoers night after night, and we look forward to the future life this work will undoubtedly have throughout the world.”

The Mountaintop began performances on September 22, 2011 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and opened on Thursday, October 13, 2011 for a limited engagement through January 22, 2012. Upon closing The Mountaintop will have played 24 preview and 117 regular performances.

Taking place on April 3, 1968, The Mountaintop is a gripping reimagining of events the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After delivering one of his most memorable speeches, an exhausted Dr. King (Samuel L. Jackson) retires to his room at the Lorraine Motel while a storm rages outside. When a mysterious stranger (Angela Bassett) arrives with some surprising news, King is forced to confront his destiny and his legacy to his people.

Tickets for the remaining performances of The Mountaintop are available at Telecharge.com, by calling (212) 239-6200, or at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre box office (242 West 45th Street). Prime tickets to The Mountaintop are reserved for each and every performance, even in cases when the show is otherwise sold-out, for the low price of $34.50: Twenty Same-Day Reserve tickets will be available each day when the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre box office opens at 10:00 a.m. (Noon on Sundays) for that day’s performance(s). They can be purchased with cash or a credit card on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a limit of two Same-Day Reserve tickets per person.

For all sold-out performances, 25 standing room tickets will be made available at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre box office for $26.50 each.

The Mountaintop is produced by Jean Doumanian, Sonia Friedman Productions, Ambassador Theatre Group, Raise the Roof 7, Ted Snowdon, Alhadeff Productions/Lauren Doll, B Square + 4 Productions/Broadway Across America, Jacki Barlia Florin/Cooper Federman, Ronnie Planalp/Moellenberg Taylor, Marla Rubin Productions/Blumenthal Performing Arts, and Scott Delman.

Read more: http://broadwayworld.com/article/THE-MOUNTAINTOP-Recoups-Broadway-Investment-20120118#ixzz1kFRz65mv

 

Written on January 23rd, 2012 , Media


The playwright Katori Hall, a self-described workaholic, is in the middle of a busy theater season: shortly after her play “The

Mountaintop,” about the last hours of the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., closes on Broadway on Jan. 22, her newest play, “Hurt Village,” about a soldier returning from Iraq, will open at theSignature Theater Company on Feb. 7. Ms. Hall, 30, who was born in Memphis, lives in Washington Heights with her fiancé, Alan Tumusiime, 28, a video editor and photographer. She spends Sundays avoiding writing, playing guitar and appreciating both reality television and Southern cuisine.

EARLY START It’s weird, but for the past couple of weeks, I’ve actually been getting up around 8, which is crazy. I’ve become used to getting up really, really early, unfortunately — I’d much rather sleep. I haven’t even needed an alarm. I’ve been going to the gym early and having to get down to the casting office early.

TWITTER AND PROTEIN I must say, I look at my Twitter and my Facebook before I nourish myself. I probably need to stop that. If I don’t go out to eat for brunch, I’ll cook, or my fiancé will cook for us. We have our protein; we make eggs or omelets. Over breakfast, my fiancé and I talk and listen to music. We play everything from Colbie Caillat to Ugandan R & B.

WALK IN THE PARK I live near this park called Fort Tryon Park, which I love. I actually like to take a walk in the park when we don’t cook. There’s this cafe called New Leaf; it’s my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood because it’s in the park. It’s just homey.

REALITY TELEVISION I come back home and watch whatever is on TV. I’m into my reality TV shows — if “Mob Wives” is on, I will watch that. I also watch “Up With Chris Hayes” in the morning; I got into it once I went on the show and was like, “I didn’t even know this show existed!” The day is all about chillaxing and gathering my strength for the next week.

PAGE TURNER I read fashion magazines. I’m into interior decorating right now. I have a whole stack of issues of House Beautiful, and I tear out pages to try to figure out what’s the next step for the house. I’m redoing everything. I just painted all the rooms in different shades of purple, my favorite color. And I bought a new grown-up canopy bed from Room and Board.  I’ve been living like a college student surrounded with furniture I scavenged from the street. I’ve had it for the past five years, but since I just turned 30, I’m determined to create a home.

MOVIE OR MATINEE We go to a movie or catch a matinee of a play. We went to go see the new “Twilight” and also a play, “Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale,” at theNational Black Theater in Harlem.

HOME COOKING After that, we come back home and cook something hearty. It will vary from goat stew and potatoes to spaghetti or rice and peas. I’ve tried to get away from macaroni because it’s fattening and I’m trying to lose weight. The cuisine is absolutely influenced by my heritage. But I’m trying to stay away from the macaroni and cheese and candied yams.

WINDING DOWN I sit on the couch after dinner and watch movies on TV so that I can veg out and take my mind off my work. I try to enjoy the little nice things about my life and relax whenever I can. I end up going to bed around midnight.


Written on January 15th, 2012 , Media

 

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, New York City Councilman  Ruben Wills (Queens District 28) will present a New York City Proclamation to  the Broadway production of The Mountaintop by Katori Hall. Citations will be  given to cast members Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, director Kenny Leon and  producers Jean Doumanian and Sonia Friedman, following the Sunday matinee  performance, January 15th.

The Mountaintop by Katori Hall, stars Samuel L. Jackson as Dr. Martin Luther  King, Jr., and Angela Bassett, and is directed by Tony Award® nominee Kenny Leon  (Stick Fly, Fences, A Raisin in the Sun). It began performances on September 22,  2011 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and opened on Thursday, October 13, 2011  for a limited engagement through January 22, 2012. Upon closing The Mountaintop  will have played 24 preview and 117 regular performances.

Taking place on April 3, 1968, The Mountaintop is a gripping reimagining of  events the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin  Luther King, Jr. After delivering one of his most memorable speeches, an  exhausted Dr. King (Samuel L. Jackson) retires to his room at the Lorraine Motel  while a storm rages outside. When a mysterious stranger (Angela Bassett) arrives  with some surprising news, King is forced to confront his destiny and his legacy  to his people.

Tickets for The Mountaintop are available at Telecharge.com, by calling (212)  239-6200, or at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre box office (242 West 45th Street).  Prime tickets to The Mountaintop are reserved for each and every performance,  even in cases when the show is otherwise sold-out, for the low price of $34.50:  Twenty Same-Day Reserve tickets will be available each day when the Bernard B.  Jacobs Theatre box office opens at 10:00 a.m. (Noon on Sundays) for that day’s  performance(s). They can be purchased with cash or a credit card on a  first-come, first-served basis. There is a limit of two Same-Day Reserve tickets  per person.
For all sold-out performances, 25 standing room tickets will be  made available at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre box office for $26.50 each.

The Mountaintop is produced by Jean Doumanian, Sonia Friedman Productions,  Ambassador Theatre Group, Raise the Roof 7, Ted Snowdon, Alhadeff  Productions/Lauren Doll, B Square + 4 Productions/Broadway Across America, Jacki  Barlia Florin/Cooper Federman, Ronnie Planalp/Moellenberg Taylor, and Marla  Rubin Productions/Blumenthal Performing Arts

Read more: http://broadwayworld.com/article/Ruben-Wills-to-Speak-at-THE-MOUNTAINTOP-for-MLK-Day-20120111#ixzz1jBkvxX3W

Written on January 11th, 2012 , Events

Lloyd Watts and Charlie Hudson III have joined the cast of
the Signature Theatre Company world-premiere production of Hurt Village,
the new play by Katori Hall, author of Broadway’s The Mountaintop.
Current rehearsals lead to a Feb. 7 first preview that will christen the new
Signature Center’s Romulus Linney Courtyard Theater on West 42nd Street.

As previously reported, the play set in a Memphis housing project will
feature Marsha Stephanie Blake (The Merchant of Venice; Joe
Turner’s Come and Gone), Nicholas Christopher (Rent, In the Heights),

Corey Hawkins (Suicide, Incorporated), Ron Cephas Jones (Gem of the
Ocean, The Bridge Project), Joaquina Kalukango (Godspell), Tonya Pinkins (Play On!; Jelly’s Last Jam; Caroline, or
Change; “All My Children”) and Saycon Sengbloh (Fela!, Hair). Amari

Cheatom, originally announced for the play, is no longer attached to the
project.

Patricia McGregor will direct the gritty drama about life and change in a
family. Hurt Village will open Feb. 27 and continue to March 18. The play is part of the Off-Broadway Signature’s expanded mission to produce
new works, in a program dubbed Residency Five, which guarantees five playwrights
three world-premiere productions each over the course of a five-year
residency. Here’s how Signature bills Hurt Village, which has received a 2011
Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award from TCG: “It’s the end of a long
summer in Hurt Village, a housing project in Memphis, Tennessee. A government
Hope Grant means relocation for many of the project’s residents, including
Cookie, a 13-year-old aspiring rapper, along with her mother Crank and
great-grandmother Big Mama. As the family prepares to move, Cookie’s father
Buggy unexpectedly returns from a tour of duty in Iraq. Ravaged by the war,
Buggy struggles to find a position in his disintegrating community, along with a
place in his daughter’s wounded heart.”

The gritty work earned Hall the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, given annually
to an outstanding female playwright.

The design team of Hurt Village includes David Gallo (set and projection design), Clint Ramos (costume
design), Sarah Sidman (lighting design), Rob Kaplowitz (sound design), Cookie
Jordan (hair and make-up design), Kate Wilson (dialect coach), Rick Sordelet
(fight direction) and Luqman Brown (additional music). Casting is by Telsey +
Company. The production stage manager is Jane Pole; assistant stage manager is
Megan J. Alvord.

The not-for-profit Signature’s new home is in the Frank Gehry-designed
Signature Center at 480 W. 42nd Street between Dyer and 10th Avenues.

 

Single tickets are now on sale for Hurt Village and Athol Fugard‘s Blood Knot, which runs Jan. 31-March 11,
as the inaugural production in The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre.

All regularly priced single tickets ($75) for the initial run of both shows
will be made available for $25 through The Signature Ticket Initiative: A Decade
of Access. Tickets and season subscriptions can be purchased by calling the box
office at (212) 244-7529 or online at www.signaturetheatre.org.

By Kenneth
Jones

11 Jan 2012

Written on January 11th, 2012 , Media

The Mountaintop playwright explains the real story behind why she re-imagined MLK’s last day

Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop was one of the most highly anticipated plays to come to Broadway this fall. The playwright-performer who hails from Memphis humanizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in her play that reimagines his last night at The Lorraine Hotel just before his assassination. The Mountaintop received its world premiere in London, winning the West End’s 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play (equivalent to Broadway’s Tony Award). Hall is an alumna of the Lark Playwrights’ Workshop where she developed The Mountaintop at the age of 26. The emerging playwright also is a graduate of Columbia University, the A.R.T. at Harvard University, and the Juilliard School. Her other plays include Hurt Village, Children of Killers, Hoodoo Love, Remembrance, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, and WHADDABLOODCLOT! BlackEnterprise.com talked to Hall about her Broadway debut with The Mountaintop and this historic season with productions by three Black female playwrights appearing on Broadway.

What personally motivated you  to write a play about Martin Luther King, Jr?

The play started with a story that my mother told me when I was very young. She wanted to go see Dr. King that night at the Mason Temple but she didn’t get a chance to hear him speak, because there was so much talk about violence. Some people said they were going to bomb the church. Someone overheard the mayor say if “Dr. King comes to Memphis he’s not going to make it out alive.” And so my mother was extremely afraid. That story stayed with me. It embedded itself inside of my mind. I started thinking, well, if she was afraid to go to the church, he must have really been afraid. Here was a man who lived with the threat of a bullet all the time. He woke up every day in spite of the death threats. My mother’s story was a point of inspiration for me. It provided a springboard for me to delve into what King was going through at the time of his demise. The character Chamea (played by Angela Bassett) is inspired by my mother because there is a line in the play where she says, “I wish I got a chance to see you.”

How was it working with such A-list stars as Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett as the leads?

I am not very starstruck. So, to me it has been all about the work. It’s really been about working with a new director and new actors versus working with the big name stars that they are. They gave me an amazing amount of respect, especially as a young Black emerging artist. We had conversations about the characters. I got to stay in the room with them for eight hours a day. It was a collaborative process. This play is very much about two people being in a room together and changing one another.

What do you hope The Mountaintop’s audiences will walk away with after viewing the play?

That they will see a very human portrayal of Dr. King as a man who deals with his spirituality and who deals with his temptations just like every other man. They will see that this is an ordinary man who did extraordinary things and changed the world.  By watching this they will see that as regular people they too can do extraordinary things. So, I feel as though audiences will be very much inspired. I think it will also challenge people’s idea of Dr. King and prevent this moral amnesia. A lot of people don’t know that at the end of Dr. King’s life he wasn’t just dealing with the civil rights movement he was dealing with economic injustice (Poor People’s Campaign). He was trying to organize another March on Washington.  He was speaking out against the Vietnam War. So, he was taking up this triple prong approach to equality. During the last year of his life he was very different, he was becoming very radical.

What made you to become a playwright?

There are so many reasons but I started out as an actress. I became frustrated with the lack of extremely complex, meaty roles for African Americans. When I was in acting class, my scene partner and I went to the library to try to find a play that had a scene for two Black women. It was really hard. That was in 2002. Now I focus my plays on bringing my experience to the stage being an African American woman from the South and bringing a unique perspective that I think is missing from American theater right now.

How does it feel to make history, knowing you’re one of three Black women (Lydia Diamond and Suzan  Lori-Parks) with Broadway productions this season?

It’s wonderful to be among these sisters. We all know each other. We all support each other’s work. For the three of us to be arriving together at this point in time, it does demonstrate that there may be a possibility of changing Broadway or the Great White Way. But I am also hesitant to celebrate. Across the nation, only 17% of plays written by women all together are produced. I think that is very troubling. Having three Black women being produced on Broadway symbolizes change but the change has to go much deeper and it has to happen more consistently.

 

 

Written on January 5th, 2012 , Media

Click on photo to watch Katori along with the other members of the creative team for “The Mountaintop” on Charlie Rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We look at the play “The Mountaintop” with the playwright Katori Hall, actors Samuel L. Jackson & Angela Bassett, director Kenny Leon

Written on January 5th, 2012 , Media
Katori Hall on Twitter