Neptune gives tickets to 100 youth for Martin Luther King Jr. play

Tonight, a hundred youth will have the chance to see the final Halifax performance of a play about Martin Luther King Jr.

Halifax's Neptune Theatre inspired after 400 black youth were sent to Black Panther

The Mountaintop is a fictional play about the last day in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. (Submitted by Neptune Theatre)

The success of a community fundraising effort to take black youth to see Black Panther has inspired Neptune Theatre to open its doors for free. 

Tonight, a hundred youth will have the chance to see the final Halifax performance of a play about Martin Luther King Jr.

The Mountaintop details the night after the iconic civil rights activist gave his famous speech, and the night before he was assassinated.

The theatre company's artistic director reached out to community leader Quentrel Provo after Provo fundraised to get tickets for 400 youth to see the superhero movie Black Panther last month.

Provo, the founder of Stop the Violence, a charity that works with youth, said the play is especially relevant considering recent reports of racism at local schools.

'This event is for all youth of all races'

"I've been hearing stories about racism in schools, and a lot of people reached out to me about bringing the youth together. The event is for all youth of all races, to come out, be together, and see this play," he said.

It's a message Provo says all youth in Nova Scotia can benefit from hearing, regardless of the colour of their skin.

Quentrel Provo says Martin Luther King Jr.'s message is one all Nova Scotian youth can benefit from hearing. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

"It's about togetherness, and what Martin Luther King stood for," he said. "As a civil rights leader, it wasn't about colour. It was about, we're all one, brothers and sisters. As soon as they gave me tickets it was a no-brainer."

Neptune Theatre's artistic director, Jeremy Webb, said Provo's efforts to take youth to the movies inspired him to give away the 100 tickets.

"We wanted to make sure that they got a chance to see this play," said Webb.

Jeremy Webb says he was inspired to give away 100 tickets after hearing about Provo's efforts to take 400 African Nova Scotian youth to see Black Panther. (Isabelle Chevrier)

"At the end of the day, let's be honest, tickets range here anywhere from $25 to $60 or $70. For some people, that's just not affordable," he said. "In this case, maybe there's a perception that Neptune Theatre isn't a place for these young people. I want them to come in and experience it for the first time."

The theatre company's new mission specifically mentions focusing on theatre that explores diverse viewpoints and inspires understanding. 

"I think it's really important for all Nova Scotians to see their faces on stage," Webb said.

That means focusing on building local talent, putting on productions that show diversity, and taking performances out of Halifax to smaller communities, Webb said.

Canadian theatre 'at a crossroads'

Theatre that focuses on Indigenous and diverse voices is part of a growing movement across Canada, according to George Elliott Clarke, a playwright and Canada's former parliamentary poet laureate.

"We're at a very interesting crossroads right now," said Clarke. "There's a lot more correct attention being given to the necessity of providing Indigenous-themed content to the nation's stages. That is long overdue and absolutely necessary. At the same time there is more of an interest in dramatizing diversity."

100 youth will see The Mountaintop today at 7:30 p.m. (Submitted by Neptune Theatre)

Clarke said giving youth free tickets to see films and theatre that focus on diversity can have a lasting impact.

"You don't know how many of those youth will be turned on, electrified, inspired, to struggle for more opportunity for themselves, to want to become screenwriters," he said. 

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg

Journalist

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Halifax. She previously worked for CBC Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von. stackelberg@cbc.ca