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PARKING PARTNERS

WHAT WAS HE THINKING? by David Dower

A still from Plata Quemada of a man standing behind a see through screen with a black and white projection

There was a moment, in the first week of my junior year of high school, that is the origin story for my life in theatre. It was a small moment, in the scheme of things, but it involved a fork in the road for my self-narrative and I can still replay it in my head, every last detail of it down to the smells and the chill on the night air.

An epiphany is a moment when a person is struck with a sudden realization that changes the rest of their story. In my case, the epiphany involved me, a brand-new school, a teacher I’d never met and an illegal substance in my hand. He gave me a choice. I could show up for chorus the next day or he would turn my name over to the principal at this school I had been attending for less than a week. “I don’t sing,” I remember I mumbled through a fog of smoke. “You do now,” he laughed. I went to chorus the next morning and have never left my life in art.

Perhaps you can locate a similar moment in the development of “the story of you.”

This is a story of such a moment for a very public figure who almost never was. A person who changed the course of his own story before he changed the course of human events. Before he was Malcolm X, he was Detroit Red. And he was in Roxbury.

As such, this is not the story of Malcolm X. Playwright Will Power is interested in the moment that yanked Malcolm Little out of that Detroit Red narrative, one of petty criminality and dead-end hustles, and dropped him on the path to the story of Malcolm X. He has set his play in that moment, inside the unfolding of the epiphany itself.

To be clear, many people caught at this same crossroads are never given the benefit of such a moment. Somewhere, today, someone was not. Statistics for black men in America are a brutal reminder of how far we have yet to travel in the direction that Malcolm X was calling us to. But Malcolm Little was afforded a moment to choose. And he chose to let himself be arrested in this Boston jewelry shop.

What was he thinking?

David Dower Artistic Director

Join us for Detroit Red (FEB 01-16) and the Emerson Paramount Center.

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