Katori Hall is an award-winning playwright and performer who uses her pen to change perceptions and provoke thought. The Memphis native is responsible for the Broadway smash hit, From the Mountaintop, which starred Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett and was written in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her mother’s passion for the Civil Rights leader.
Growing up, Hall had always heard her mother tell the story about regretting that she missed Dr. King’s famous Mountaintop speech, which would be the last time he ever spoke. “She, to this day has two paintings on the wall and one is of Jesus and one is of Dr. Martin Luther King,” Hall tells MSNBC.
Hall decided to weave Dr. King’s story with her own vision. In From the Mountain Top, Samuel L. Jackson portrays a vulnerable Dr. Martin Luther King while Angela Bassett plays a mysterious maid (named after Hall’s mom) who was the last person to share an intimate conversation with the leader.
From the Mountaintop premiered in London before making its Broadway debut and landed Hall in the history books as she became the first Black woman to win Best New Play Honors in London and New York. Hall has won a plethora of awards like the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and was a finalist for the Ruby Award, amongst many others and her work doesn’t end.
Previous plays include Rembrance, Hoodoo Love, The Hope Well, and several more, including her latest play Hurt Village, which is being adapted into a film.
“I think what we need is for people of color to see the power behind cultural capital,” Katori Hall told theGrio in October. “The arts are tools for a people to talk about themselves. People of color have to use this tool. We need more producers of color.” Spoken like a true trailblazer.
-Starr Rhett Rocque