Outside The Dixie in Huntingdon. Photo by Kristi Corbin.

The Mountaintop Comes Home to Memphis

It’s so easy to talk music in Memphis. But today, let’s talk theater. Break a leg and all that. Our conversation starter is:

Katori Hall.

You may have heard of her – she, who originated in Memphis and moved to Columbia University, Harvard and Juilliard. She, who imagined Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last night; wove it into a play; staged it in New York City (starring Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson) and London (where she was awarded the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play).

Katori Hall, originally from Memphis, will bring her play The Mountaintop from London and New York City to Memphis in January. Photo by Xanthe Elbrick.

Hall’s play, The Mountaintop, comes to Memphis’ Circuit Playhouse Jan. 18-Feb. 10, 2013. It will be presented in collaboration with Memphis’ black repertory theater, Hattiloo Theater.

In more good news for your future nights out in Memphis, this isn’t the only collaboration planned for The Circuit and Hattiloo. In March 2013, construction is set to begin on a new home for Hattiloo within walking distance of The Circuit, which is within walking distance of Memphis’ Playhouse on the Square and TheatreWorks, which are within walking distance of some of the city’s best locally-driven eats, sweets and drinks (Boscos Squared brew pub, YoLo Frozen Yogurt and Local Gastropub, among others). Considering that the collective 2012-2013 season for Playhouse on the Square, The Circuit and TheatreWorks includes 18 musicals, comedies and dramas, and that Hattiloo regularly stages seven major productions and six special performances annually, this is going to be one heck of a hub for doing dinner and a show. Travelers looking to plan an evening out in the area should orient themselves to the intersection of Cooper Street and Madison Avenue.

The Circuit Playhouse, within walking distance of two additional playhouses (plus a third in the works), will host The Mountaintop. The Circuit was formerly known as The Memphian, a movie theater frequented by a certain local. Guess who. Photo courtesy of Playhouse on the Square.

Back to the story – and a bone for history-lovers: Though The Mountaintop is Hall’s imagining, the play is set on April 3, 1968 in room 306 of the Lorraine Motel. Visit the actual site at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis’ historic South Main District.

Katori Hall set The Mountaintop at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel, now part of the National Civil Rights Museum. While the segment of the museum that connects to the motel undergoes renovation, admission is discounted and includes a rare opportunity for visitors to step on the balcony outside of room 306.

If you’re seeking theatrical entertainment elsewhere in West Tennessee, use this primer:

In Huntingdon: I love Dixie Carter. But I didn’t always know that she was born, educated – and named pageant runner-up – in the state of Tennessee. In Huntingdon, about 50 minutes northeast of Jackson, the Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center is entering its eighth season. Listen for gospel and bluegrass throughout the Dixie Live Concert Series or catch the Jan. 12, 2013 performance of The Seven Wonders of The South, a family road trip comedy written by (and starring) Huntingdon native John West.

Outside The Dixie in Huntingdon. Photo by Kristi Corbin.

In Jackson: Locals love the Ned R. McWherter West Tennessee Cultural Arts Center so much, they’ve nicknamed it “The Ned,” a modern-looking (and sounding) 444-seat venue. Among other local and traveling musical and theatrical acts, the Jackson Theatre Guild takes the stage here – Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2013, the guild will present Escanaba in da Moonlight, a family comedy about hunting co-written by Jeff Daniels.

Elsewhere in Memphis: In downtown Memphis, catch a show at The Orpheum. Its Broadway Series is as dramatic as its historic interior – a blend of brocade draping, gilded moldings and crystal chandeliers. And the Tennessee Shakespeare Company stages not just the plays of William Shakespeare, but also works by classical and Southern writers, at indoor and outdoor venues throughout the area. Next up: Hamlet, to be performed at Memphis’ Dixon Gallery & Gardens in April 2013.

What’s on your theatrical must-see list in West Tennessee?

Outside The Orpheum, where South Main meets Beale Street in Memphis. Photo by Phillip Parker. Copyright © Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011 All Rights Reserved.

Hi! I’m Samantha Crespo, and I am Floridian by birth, Tennessean by heart. Growing up, I vacationed in East Tennessee, so I...Read on


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