The story of a preacher from Atlanta
- Monday, January 1st - 12:00 am
A modern, R&B opera recounts the final 36 hours in the remarkable life of American icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was an all-too-human hero, who composer Douglas Tappin depicts as a flawed man of God who taught a nation that only love can obliterate hate.
On the morning of April 3, 1968, a young preacher from Atlanta prepares for a journey to Memphis, Tennessee to join striking sanitation workers in their protest for an improvement in their pay, treatment and working conditions. During the night, he had a dream – one that is a disconcerting mix of reminiscence and premonition. Always, at the center of the recurring dream, is a man who does not retaliate though he is viciously attacked, the image of a balcony that has about it a strange sense of foreboding – and destiny – and a moment he knows he is not yet ready to face, but cannot yet explain, or see beyond …
As he sets out on his journey, boarding a flight from Atlanta’s busy airport, he begins to reflect on episodes of his life and, by doing so, searches for meaning to his dreams. He starts with the early years of his story, remembering the harsh racism and segregation in the community of his childhood, his dear maternal grandmother and the promise he made to her at her deathbed. It was a promise to love, one that set his life upon its present course.
Further along on his journey, his thoughts return to Boston University, the place where he first articulated his rudimentary “love answer” to the persecution and injustice he saw. It was also the place he enjoyed the taste of a novel freedom and met the woman who would become his wife. She would set out with him on a life adventure that first took them to Montgomery, Alabama where, together, they would play a vital role in the 1955 bus boycott that changed the law.
As he continued his practical application of love to America’s social ills, sometimes with his strong, supportive wife, but most often alone – away from her, away from their young family and modest home – he challenged the status quo, alongside other leaders of the freedom revolution he led. Side by side, they marched in other cities, facing stern – and, at times, violent – opposition and winning political success at a national level in Washington D.C., but most victories being hard-won on streets, and in jail cells throughout the South.
He relives the most significant times he was celebrated and vilified, the struggles around him, the war within him and the loneliness and despair along the way from Birmingham to Selma where, in 1965, the stand he led the people to take created the enactment of voting rights legislation that changed the course of American history. He remembers this kaleidoscope of events as he arrives in Memphis, most poignantly on the morning after he makes, perhaps, the most emotionally draining speech of his life.
Finally, just 36 hours after he set out from home, he sits alone at the edge of his bed in a motel room, on the early evening of April 4. He knows that outside his room door waits the balcony of his recurring dreams. Dream has become reality; the moment he has seen in dream images is now the moment at hand.
Before he steps onto that balcony, he wrestles to complete the self-reconciliation of his life. Has he – the man, not the icon – done all he could? Although he has said he is not afraid, is he ready to die? And beyond himself, have people been sufficiently inspired and empowered to pursue the dream he preached to them? Even though he knows he will not experience the fulfillment of that dream with them, it is a dream of an unstoppable freedom that will wash away injustice and inequality.