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Christ Hospital presents ‘flawed’ Dr. King

Dr. MartLuther King Jr. played by Mark Smith is visited by an angel played by LisBeasley during his final moments

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. played by Mark Smith is visited by an angel played by Lisa Beasley during his final moments for the play The Mountaintop performed for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Taste Celebration at Advocate Christ Medical Center, Monday, January 20th, 2014, in Oak Lawn | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 22, 2014 6:20AM



Some might say that Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn hosted its 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day from the top of the mountain.

The Rev. Richard James, the hospital’s chaplain and co-chairman of this year’s event — called “The Mountaintop: A Vista of Promise and Labor” — said the idea came from an ad he saw depicting Katori Hall’s fictional play, “The Mountaintop,” on the back of a bus.

James said the play appeared to have some potential for the hospital’s King Day observance. When the planning committee learned more about the play, a “fictional meditation” about the final hours of King’s life, it got “so excited about it” that it changed plans for Monday’s event, he said.

A portion of Hall’s 90-minute play was performed in the hospital auditorium, centering on the hours that King spends before his assassination in discussion with an angel, who is in the guise of a hotel maid. Mark Smith played King and Lisa Beasley was Camae, the hotel maid/angel.

King and Camae are in the hotel room where King was assassinated on its balcony April 3, 1968, as King realizes what his fate will be. The play offers the audience Hall’s view of the human side of King while maintaining his legacy as a great leader.

Smith and Beasley took questions from the audience following a standing ovation from approximately 250 people in attendance.

The Providence-St. Mel High School Chamber Choir, conducted by David Baar and accompanied by Brian Ward, performed before and after the play.

Eboneve Offord, 16, a junior at Providence-St. Mel and a member of the choir, said showing King as a “flawed” person rather than the “God-like figure” she was taught about was powerful because “we are all flawed.”

“It was real, it was raw, and it was accurate,” she said. “I appreciate that because a lot of people don’t know how he was as a person.”

Sunia White-Hunt, 15, a sophomore at Providence-St. Mel and a choir member, said the play “inspires me to want to continue his legacy in our everyday lives. People always say that the youth is our future, but the youth is our now.”

A multicultural taste event followed the performances, nearly doubling the number of attendees. More than a dozen local vendors and restaurants and more than 80 volunteers donated food and service for the taste.

James said the celebration, which has grown from a small audience 20 years ago to its present size, attempts to “intersect the values of the hospital with the life of Martin Luther King. The hospital is indeed a healing place. There is more healing to be done.”

James said “tremendous progress” has been made in racial relations, there are still differences to overcome.

“We had to learn how to celebrate in a multicultural way,” he said. “This holiday is an opportunity to frame a theme that inspires and challenges us.”

Linda Denberry, of Chicago’s Morgan Park community, said she came because she saw a flier about the event in the hospital cafeteria.

“I wanted to do something this Martin Luther King Day,” Denberry said. “This play, this event has been wonderful. The play opened my eyes to the humanity of the person of Martin Luther King.”



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