Felichia Chivaughn directs ‘The Mountaintop,’ a play imagining the last night of MLK Jr., at Garden Theatre | Live Active Cultures | Orlando

The final time I spoke to artist-activist Felichia Chivaughn was in late summer months 2020, during the peak of the two the pre-vaccine pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, and the co-founder of Central Florida Leisure Leisure Advocacy (CFEA) was “not Ok.” I’m satisfied to report that Chivaughn is feeling considerably greater now, as the Orlando-dependent director readies Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop for its operate at the Back garden Theatre (Friday, Jan. 21–Sunday, Feb. 6). But as I uncovered in my interview, she’s dropped none of her passion for range and justice through this seeking previous year. 

How are you performing now, and what have you been up to due to the fact our previous job interview?

I am very well. I am grateful. Some things have adjusted, some points have not. But I’ve discovered to continue to keep my peace, and determine out what to concentration on and where to put my vitality.

I have experienced an intriguing final year with COVID. A lot of things were on Zoom, so I had the opportunity to immediate at Playfest [and] I have had the chance to perform on some other issues digitally.

Then I acquired to immediate Sweat at Rollins. It was amazing. The pupils labored so tricky. We definitely dug into this perform in these a daring way. I was so grateful to be the initially Black director to direct in their mainstage time. So that was unique to share with people learners, and I’ll by no means fail to remember that.

What is new with CFEA, which advocates for neighborhood Black theater pros?

We’re all busier than ever. Since anyone in different strategies returned back again to working, thankfully, we’re hoping to continue our advocacy efforts, as well as get again into our arts local community. Fortunately, our Black Ebook, [which] was 1 of our objectives that we had, is up. So a great deal of artists have booked gigs from there a large amount of theaters and amusement organizations have been able to supply Black artists and actors, and artists of shade.

What drew you to direct The Mountaintop, a fictionalized engage in imagining the last evening of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life?

My initially time encountering The Mountaintop was when I carried out it at a theater below in Orlando [in 2014]. I played the purpose of Camae in a black box theater with Clinton Harris, and it was just one particular of my best and most satisfying theatrical ordeals. I cherished the script I like the producing, I love the story, I love the nuances and the advanced figures.

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  • courtesy picture
  • Anita Whitney Bennett as Camae

In 2020 I was on a Zoom connect with and [artistic director] Joseph Walsh messaged me and mentioned, “We’re accomplishing The Mountaintop. Will you direct it?” And I was like, “I do not know, can I?” I know what it takes to do this demonstrate it’s seemingly simple, but it is a big undertaking. It is in itself a mountain to climb. 

The operate that they are doing at the Back garden, they’re actually accomplishing the matters that we requested when we talked about equity and range and inclusion: producing the desk more substantial if you don’t know 1, develop a single. [Walsh] achieved out to me and gave me this prospect, and they’ve been providing support alongside the way … For it to appear back again yet again, decades later on, just seriously felt like a comprehensive-circle moment.

Was it challenging balancing the play’s fantasy factors with a revered historic determine like MLK?

I know everything that will come alongside with us doing something pertaining to Dr. King, and so did Katori Hall, the playwright. She got a ton of criticism for using this gentleman off the pedestal that we enjoy to continue to keep him on. 

When chatting with the actors, when we’re working on it, we usually start out with what the real truth is and then we go from there. So no make a difference if it is a moment of magic, or a instant of vulnerability, you can uncover the real truth in that. No matter whether it’s anything that will make you come to feel like you are floating compared to a thing that you sit with on your own and cry about. Anything we’re accomplishing is grounded to learn and investigate that common real truth of dread, loneliness, inner thoughts of unworthiness, mischief, curiosity, courage [and] regret.

It is a obstacle portraying anyone that persons are so already familiar with in their mind, for the reason that they come in seeking to see what they’ve by now found. We’re approaching it from the actor, bringing his reliable self into the shoes of this male. Seriously assessing and analyzing his route, his issues [and] his planet, as opposed to just supplying you an impersonation.

Exactly where did you uncover your performers, Essex O’Brien (as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) and Anita Whitney Bennett (as Camae)?

We experienced an open up audition, am I grateful to whatever wind blew Anita Whitney Bennett into Central Florida and whatever circumstance that authorized a incredibly booked movie actor, Essex O’Brien, to be readily available to do this clearly show, since they are the excellent men and women for it.

Each individual night time I go away motivated every single evening I’m just shocked and in awe of their commitment, and their curiosity, and their bravery, their vulnerability and their capacity to pay attention to just about every other and assist just about every other on stage. A two-person play can become a tiny competitive, but they are genuinely just so in sync that it is just beautiful to see it feels like they share breath. 

How has your knowledge been functioning with the Garden Theatre’s staff members, which consists of CFEA customers Roberta Emerson and Desiree Montes?

The people that I have experienced call with have been so accommodating, so inviting, and actually designed room for my voice. I truly feel like they went above and beyond. Usually when there is a exhibit, most people really don’t truly publicize who it is been directed by, nor is there such assistance for possessing your voice echoed in internet marketing products. I really feel like the theater was incredibly intentional about that, so I felt so, so welcomed.

Occasionally when you do a display there are so quite a few hurdles, mainly because you’re coming into someone’s household. These folks function at this theater all the time, and they’re extremely protecting of it, and so there’s a fight that you have. But at the Back garden, it actually felt like I was coming house in a way, even nevertheless it was my 1st time [directing] there.

Who is The Mountaintop for?

My heart was for this exhibit to be an invite for nontraditional theater-goers, mainly because theater is for everyone. I actually hope that this demonstrate can be that that bridge to people today who could never ever have stepped foot in the Garden, or in any theater, that they can obtain that experience of home that I felt.